ASSEN, HOLLAND, JUNE 23: Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Ben Spies arrived in Assen at just the right time.The Texan returned to one of the few tracks he learned during his championship-winning World Superbike season and just days after earning his first MotoGP podium in his fifth race with the French team.Local knowledge should give Spies an added boost as he enters the second of five races in six weeks and another without the injured world champion Valentino Rossi.”The last race was new for everybody, but it is good to come here at a track that I know and I do like,” Spies said of the Dutch circuit where he beat Nori Haga in the first race by .154 secs. last year. “We had a great couple of races last year (Editor’s note: He crashed out of the lead on the second lap of race two) and I’m looking forward to it. I think the bike will work good here and I’ll try and take some of the confidence from last week. It will be hard to duplicate that or fight for the podium but we’ll just continue learning and try and take everything we can from it and try and put it into this weekend.”Spies earned his first MotoGP podium with late final lap pass of Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden at the return of the British GP to Silverstone last Sunday. The podium came sooner than he’d predicted. He’d said that everything would have to line up perfectly for him to get a podium and at Silverstone it did. Asked if he thought he’d have a podium by his fifth race, he said, “Not this early no. I thought it was possible in the first year, but it was going to have to be a picture perfect weekend and maybe some bad for other people. I knew it was a possibility, but the first year would be really tough. The way the race went last weekend for us, when we had to make some good passes and catch up a little bit ,was surprising to me, but we were able to do it. It is going to be hard and now that it has happened people are going to expect it more often. I’m more realistic and know how difficult it was and how everything has to be right. But I do like this track and I’ll push at 100%, just like I did in Jerez and Mugello and Le Mans. Silverstone was a good weekend and we’ll see where we end up Saturday.”The diminished expectations were developed through previous wild cards and a winter’s testing, when he rarely fell off the Yamaha. He’d crashed more this season than he ever had, with cold tires contributing to some crashes, but said “that’s the way it is. How hard it is, I knew it was going to be tough and that’s why a lot of people at the beginning of the year thought I was downplaying everything but I think I was just more realistic because I’d done races and done wild cards and I knew how difficult it is. I didn’t expect to be top five and I know it is special when it is top five. Just because I was on the podium last week doesn’t mean it will be like that from here on out. We’ll take the positives, keep learning and keep getting better.”Asked if he was enjoying MotoGP, he laughed, “I was last weekend. It’s getting more normal and the riding style is coming. I don’t have the most MotoGP riding style out there but I’m intending to learn and know I have to make changes to me to progress and that’s the most important thing.”
Spies on a Roll
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.