Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Ben Spies continued to play down his chances on the eve of his race debut as a full-time MotoGP rider at the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix.During the pre-race press conference, where he was joined by Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner, Andrea Dovizioso, and Alvaro Bautista, Spies pointed out that 13 of the 17 riders in the class are World Champions.”Which it’s pretty tough company to step into,” Spies said. “I’m just looking forward to it. A lot of learning curves to overcome and testing’s going quite good, but we’ve still got to work from there.”And the work will be done at night.Asked if he thought a podium was possible, Spies started by saying it was “impossible to understand.” Then he added that after qualifying, if the “bike’s working great and I’m riding better than I ever have, that’s always a possibility. But for the first race, it’s… we gotta start slow and try to get points and build.”Spies won both World Superbike races last year here, but those were run during the day. As for racing under the lights, Spies, who was fourth fastest at a test here two weeks ago, said: “You know it’s different. The speed, it just seems faster at night than during the day. It didn’t catch me that big of a surprise. It was a different. But not a mind-blowing experience, and just got to keep doing laps and glad we got a test, so it’s not such a big deal and with the humidity like everybody said, it throws kinda some curveballs at the riders, but that’s the same for everybody, so we’ve just got to deal with it.”Spies has a lot to deal with, but his performance during pre-season testing raised some eyebrows, which he said was a mixed blessing.”Yeah, I mean you gotta be realistic. We’ve had a couple good tests and that’s been great, but they’re tests,” he said. “We haven’t raced yet, we haven’t seen what we can do on that standpoint. Again, a lot of the races, almost half of them are going to be new tracks. So we can have a good test and then you go to a track you don’t know and you’ve still got to learn. So it’s difficult, because as soon as you do a good test everybody starts putting more pressure on you and wants results. And it’s hard enough to come into this series as a rookie and just to race in this series, and then in the first year when people are already starting to stay ‘You may do this, you may do that,’ it’s tough. So the good testing we’ve done hasn’t really done us favors on that front, but it’s what we’re doing. And we’ll see when we get to Japan and Jerez [where the follow-on races will be held] and places that I haven’t seen before and kinda see what happens when we get there.”With the new tracks it’s going to be difficult to get into a rhythm, any sort of rhythm for me, but you never rule out any possibility. I mean everybody, even if they qualify dead last, their goal, they’re racing a motorcycle to try to win. Whether that’s possible the next day is yet to be seen. All we can do is 100% come Sunday night and wherever it puts us is where we’re going to be.”Overall, he admitted, “it’s going to be tough. I’m not going to lie – it’s racing against these guys. We could’ve stayed in World Superbike and been competitive, but I wanted to go out and try something new and try to push myself again. Now we just got to see how we can overcome everything and see if we’re good enough to ride with these guys.”
Spies On The Eve Of Qatar Opener
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.