TOKYO, JAPAN, OCT 4 – “You know, honestly from warm-up, we struggled all weekend,” Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Ben Spies said about his first visit to the Twin Ring Motegi circuit about 60 miles north of Tokyo.Motegi was yet another new track for Spies in his rookie MotoGP season. The 2.98, 14-turn circuit has a unique feel that appeals to very few riders. Too much of it is straightaways linked by very low speed, hard braking, often downhill, corners. The stop-and-start nature is antithetical to the fast, flowing tracks, like the upcoming Sepang and Phillip Island, that most riders thrive on. Because of the nature of the layout, front end stability under braking is essential, and it was under hard braking that Spies would find his chance of a good finish ruined.At the start of the 24-lap race, the former World Superbike champion was looking for a way through the 16-rider pack, but “got the doors closed around me in turn one. Couldn’t really go anywhere. And then a mistake from me on the second lap put us back in 15th.”To say it was a mistake was being modest. Spies was among a group of riders braking for Turn 5, a downhill right that a tailwind was chasing the riders into. A rider in front of him appeared to brake early-it may have been Rizla Suzuki’s Loris Capirossi-“it was whoever was in front of me just braked and it seemed like they braked really early,” Spies said. “And it might’ve been me panicking a little bit, because I didn’t want to get behind ‘em and hit ‘em. And I just kinda moved over so if I was going to get in there hot I wouldn’t hit ‘em or anything and had somewhere to go.”As soon as I did that, I couldn’t make the corner. I got into the travel trap, starting turning and saw Nick (Hayden) was right underneath. So I didn’t know if he was behind me, got sucked in, what. Got back on the track and said, ‘OK, my race is basically over for a great result, let’s just do damage control.'”From 15th of 16 ending the second lap, Spies began his charge.”Put down my head, started reeling off laps, got through everybody and, guys that I thought that there’s no way were going to catch ‘em, we caught ‘em. And towards the end of the race we were putting in, not super-fast laps, but again, laps that would’ve put us in the top five.”As he’s done at a number of races, Spies got faster as the race went on. His fast lap came on the 20th of 24 laps and his best top speed, 179.212 mph, came a lap later. Over the second half of the race he had the pace of teammate Colin Edwards, who finished fifth, but the top four were out of reach.In the end, he finished a creditable eighth and only 3.7 secs. from seventh placed Alvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki).”I’m happy with the race,” he said. “I made a lot of passes. Had to follow a couple times and lost time but once I was clear and once we were in eighth, the lap times we were running would’ve put us in the top five. It actually ended up being a good race for us. But just a tough weekend. Started out kinda crappy and did get better, but it was a tough one that we managed pretty well.”Now Spies goes to two tracks that he knows, Sepang, where he tested twice earlier this year, and Phillip Island, where he won his first World Superbike race last year en route to the title.
Spies Runs off Track, Recovers for Eighth
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.