Yamaha’s Ben Spies finished his first day of World Superbike racing in his home country a close second after discovering gearbox issues early in the day at Miller Motorsports Park.Spies returned to Miller with an enviable record; the Texan won five of the six AMA Superbike races held at the facility west of Salt Lake City, three on the shorter course and last year’s double on the long course. With World Superbike running on the shorter 3.05-mile course, Spies was two years removed from knowing it intimately. But it didn’t take him long to get up to speed. And with 15 minutes left in qualifying he was on top.”It’s a fairly easy track and I have raced on this layout twice,” he said. “It’s an easy place to learn. It really is probably the easiest track I have ever had to learn. These guys who haven’t been here are picking it up just fine. It’s a fun track, but not too technical.”In the final few minutes he turned in his best laps, solidifying his provisional pole. Then Aprilia’s Max Biaggi came through with a flyer on his last lap to take provisional pole. Biaggi was last fastest after the first qualifying session in Valencia, the second race of the year.Spies explained that he’d gone out with a normal race tire before switching to a “really hard race tire that we don’t think would be a race tire, but we wanted to see how it was. Then came in and basically they told me it was what everybody else is on. Only then went out and did three fast laps, low 1:50s, and had a small problems which I wanted to see if it was just a tire out of balance or something. We went back out and set my fastest lap with six or seven laps on the tire, which was good.”We didn’t come in and put a tire in and pull out just one lap or anything. We did a couple of real good ones, came in and made sure everything was okay, and went back out and went faster again, so it looks pretty good.”I’m not at all surprised that Max Biaggi got up there at the end. With that tire set-up there is easily a low 1:49 in it, so I mean that bike should work here, and he is obviously a very good rider, so the time didn’t phase me at all. There is definitely more time out there.”Of his problems, Spies said that because it was a new bike on a new track, the team was “kind of shooting in the dark on the gearbox, and basically from the second lap I knew we were going to have our hands tied all day long and we couldn’t change it. So that’s what I’m looking forward to tomorrow; we get to make a big change with that. It was good in half or a quarter part of the track and then really bad in the other part. So, it was good that we got to the times that we did, because we were definitely behind the eight ball with that. But that’s what they’re doing right now and we’ll come out with a lot better set-up tomorrow.”The difference between the Yamaha R1 and the Suzuki GSX-R1000 was less than the difference in tires, he said. “It’s a different feel, just because it’s Pirellis instead of Dunlops. Not bad, just different, the pavement feels different.Spies has a perfect six-for-six record on Superpole and will be going for seven in a row tomorrow afternoon.
Spies Boxed In
Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor
Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.