LOSAIL, QATAR, APRIL 9: Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Ben Spies was nervous before the first practice of his rookie MotoGP season, but once on track he continued to gain speed en route to the sixth fastest time.The Texan, who was fourth fastest during the final pre-season test here a few weeks ago, admitted having butterflies prior to the start of the 10:30 p.m. practice session. But once he got going, he settled into a rhythm that had him as high as third on the list of 17 riders.Spies spent the hour on the harder of the two Bridgestone rear tires, never trying for an outright fast lap on the soft option. And his best lap of 1:56.818 came on the 21st of 22 laps, which he took encouragement from.”I didn’t want anything crazy to go on with it being the first race,” Spies said as he changed out of his leathers and before a quick post-practice meal. “I wanted to be in the top 10 for the first session of the year, because the last time I rode the bike I fell, so I just wanted to clear my head and get off to a good start.”At the test, Spies and several other riders were caught out by the slickness of turn two, a result of high humidity. Tonight’s temperature was 79 degrees with 32% humidity.”To be in the top 10 in the first session and right in sixth, I’m happy with that. We never really threw a lap time in and the session was pretty smooth. We went out on the hard tires and it was good. We did our quickest lap on the 21st lap, which is close to a full race. Every time we went out the times were getting faster.”Besides the top three guys, I think we’ve got pretty good speed, which is really important. We need to get some time on the softer tire so when qualifying comes we can use it to its full potential. I still think we’ve got a second at least with fresh hard tires on the bike, so I’m pretty happy about that.”The reigning World Superbike and three-time AMA Superbike champion admitted being nervous before the session, “kinda like my wild cards. It’s just the first race of the season. I didn’t want anything crazy to go on. I really wanted it to be pretty mellow.”Because of his history with turn two, Spies was determined not to repeat that mistake.”To be honest with you, I felt like a complete idiot in turn two,” he said. “And every time through there it was just like, alright, I didn’t crash on the front. Now we’re in the corner. Just felt like a complete amateur through there. It ended up we did our fastest lap on the 21st, lap which is a full race. (Editor’s note: The race is 22 laps.)As for what he expected from Saturday, Spies said, “It’s not like we’re going to hack of a second and a half off that time. We’ve definitely got some time with that exact set-up with the tires the way they are.”Really, yeah, just trying to go faster and the bike set-up is pretty much on. It’s never perfect, but it feels perfect. We don’t have any big complaints.” He added that “80% of the package is there. We need to get some time a little bit on that softer tire so that when qualifying comes around we can use it to its full potential.”Yeah, to be in the top ten in the first session and right in sixth, yeah, I’m happy with that. We never really threw a lap time in. Every time we went out the times were getting faster. Our time wasn’t one of those that just staggers out from the other ones. We backed it up the next lap and then the checkered flag was out, so I was happy with it and a good start to the season.”Again, it was pretty much a picture perfect session for us. It wasn’t anything stellar. We tried something, we found a little bit of time in it. We tried the other bike. We put race distance on tires. We did our fastest laps on race distance. It wasn’t a superfast lap, but I think all in all for first free practice of the season I’m pretty happy with it.”
Spies Sixth in First Practice
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.