Spies On the Record

Henny Ray Abrams | May 31, 2009

Yamaha’s Ben Spies had a perfect weekend in his return to America after the first leg of his worldwide tour.The Texan took Superpole, set fast lap, and won both legs of the seventh round of the World Superbike Championship at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah after being away from his Texas home for close to 100 days, the longest in his life. It didn’t hurt that title contender Nori Haga (Ducati Xerox) took himself out of contention with a vicious Saturday high-side. But Haga’s teammate Michel Fabrizio stepped in to the role of aggressive pursuier and Spies showed the maturity to be fast at the end.Spies won the red flag-interrupted first race by nine seconds on aggregate time over Hannspree Ten Kate Honda’s Carlos Checa. Fabrizio was third.Checa crashed out of the second race early on, leaving Fabrizio to hunt down Spies.  The Italian kept the margin to 1.5 seconds until the 14th of 21 laps when Spies started to increase his cushion. It went over two seconds on lap 15 and spun up from there. By the end the gap was 9.080 secs. and Spies had his seventh win and second double.Going into the race Spies knew the only riders who might have the pace were Fabrizio and Checa.”Michel (Fabrizio) was there, and we had just a little bit-about a tenth or two a lap more we could do, but I didn’t want to hurt the tires because I didn’t know what they could handle at that pace,” Spies said. “I wanted to keep him pushing, but enough to keep him out of my draft, so every time he would make a tenth on me, we would put a tenth on him and just keep him right there.”It was a tough race when it’s only a 1.5-second gap, but when he’s riding that good-or anybody else is riding that good behind you-you can’t sit there and just put a second on him in a lap. You’ve got to be consistent. You’ve got to…if they take a tenth out of you, not panic and slowly try to get it back over a couple laps, and that’s what we did.” Spies said there were five laps that he didn’t even look at his pit board because he knew Fabrizio was there.”I just looked at my lap timer and just boom, boom, kept stacking them together. No mistakes, and with seven to go, it popped, and we were able to ride back in. We wouldn’t be able to go any faster than we were going, but as their tires went down the last six laps, we had another gear that we could have kept those lap times, and that’s what I was waiting on if we had to do it, and luckily we didn’t have to; he used his front tire or whatever happened, and we were able to ride in.”

When the weekend ended, Spies had clawed back 35 points. He now trails Haga 265 to 212 with three weeks until the next round at Misano Adriatico.”With (Nori) Haga being hurt, he’s capitalized when the bike’s broke a couple times and when we crashed, and we needed to capitalize on this. It shows. Even in the rookie season, if we would have just had a smooth year, we’d be right there if not leading the thing. But it’s not happening like that. We’ve just got to keep plugging away and unfortunately he wasn’t 100 percent, but it’s racing, and we need to take full advantage when we can and get the points. The team was perfect, and we didn’t make too many mistakes this weekend. It was a great weekend for us. They don’t happen that often, but when they do happen, you’ve got to do it, because you’ve got to ride on that edge and get it done.”

Spies said this was one of his better weekend, because of the home crowd. “We took the home crowd and won both races. We’ve had a couple good days racing, but this was good. When you win a championship it’s a little bit bigger. Like when we won by one point,” in 2007, “that was pretty cool. But here, since it’s in the middle of the season, I just feel like it’s…at least I didn’t let all the Americans down by getting my butt kicked. And I feel like I got a lot of weight off my shoulders and we’re a bit closer in the points. So it’s a great day.”I get to take a week off and go on a little vacation. And, yeah, I’m happy. I went into this little two week stretch on a high and have some fun. it was a great win, not only for the wins, but having Jake (Zemke), racing with Jake again, and racing with Jamie (Hacking) again. I know I’ve smiled a lot this weekend just having him around and him, he’s had fun riding the bike again and I know he hasn’t been having fun this year and it’s been a blast.”As to what his plans are for 2010, Spies joked, “I was thinking about being a magazine writer. Seems pretty good,” he said before turning serious. “I’ll be racing motorcycles next year, so no worries. No, I really can’t say yet. I’m loving being with Yamaha, for sure, and like I said, if I stay in World Superbike, the first goal is to stay with Yamaha; if I go to MotoGP, the first goal is to stay with Yamaha. That’s where we want to be, and it always doesn’t happen like that, but the corporation’s awesome, and it’s been great so far. There’s nothing that’s happening right now, and there’s a couple little conversations here and there, but nothing’s down yet. We’re still definitely talking. When I had a weekend like this, I get a little leverage, maybe.”

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.