With the second pre-season test about to begin in Malaysia, Yamaha unveiled their 50th anniversary colors and a Q&A with Ben Spies. Ben Spies, Yamaha Factory Racing Rider:1. 2010 was an impressive MotoGP debut for you, earning the Rookie of the Year title, how was your first full season in MotoGP?It was good, I had a lot to learn. It was definitely the most learning and the toughest year I’ve had in racing, which was to be expected as MotoGP is the elite racing league. I learnt a bunch of new tracks and got to grips with a new team, it was a big learning year! We hit our stride mid-season and kept working on it, scoring a second place, a pole position and a couple of podiums. Securing the factory ride made it a great year.
2. As a result of this success you are now a Yamaha Factory rider this season. How does it feel to join the top team in the championship? Is it a different experience?A lot of people might look at it and think it’s a lot of pressure but for me now the pressure is off. Last year I needed to prove something which I did. Now I’m on the factory team I feel I worked hard last year to get there and deserve it. Now I need to keep giving 100%, I’ve got a great crew behind me and am riding for a great manufacturer. We should have a great bike this year and I’ve got a world champion team mate so I’ve got the best of the best. This is the last step, MotoGP, on a factory bike, the only thing left to do in a rider’s career is win a MotoGP race and win a MotoGP championship and that’s not impossible.3. This is now your third year as a Yamaha rider, considering this is the 50th Anniversary of Yamaha’s MotoGP racing is it a unique experience to be part of the Yamaha family?For sure, just to be part of the Yamaha family is a big thing, I’ve been here for three years now and it’s been great. They welcomed me in my first year and I’m proud that I’ve been able to win the first world superbike title for them. This year moving to the factory team in the same year as the 50th anniversary is huge for me, there’s going to be some special things going on during the season and being team mates with the world champion at this time is very cool.4. How are you finding the 2011 YZR-M1?It’s good. We’ve had three days on it now to evaluate. We’ve still got a lot of stuff to work through and test and look at and hopefully some more stuff at Qatar. With 2012 coming and 1000cc rule changes there’s not going to be any mind blowing changes to the bike on the grid, but Yamaha have made some improvements for what we needed.5. It must be a great learning opportunity to share your garage with the reigning world champion?Absolutely! Jorge is the fastest guy in the world, you can either be intimidated by it or learn from it. I’d like to think there’s a lot of things I do like the way I approach my racing and the way I race a motorcycle that I like, but there’s things I need to learn that I’d like to learn from Jorge, not just how to go faster on a motorcycle. He’s got that pure speed so again there’s no one I’d rather be team mates with than the fastest person.6. You spent a productive year in 2010 learning the new circuits of this championship, what are your goals for this season?You can’t just jump in and say we’re going for the championship this year, it’s still early and it’s only our second season. We finished sixth at the end of 2010; I always want to do better every year I race so I want to finish inside the top five this year. Realistically my aim is to battle for wins and podiums. Usually in a MotoGP race you can see clearly one guy who looks good for the win, and then you can see the podium battle, I want to be in that battle every weekend and I want to win a couple of races. Obviously we want to win the title, that’s everybody’s goal, but realistically a battle for the podium and aim for top five every race is the target. When there’s a win possible we’ll go for it and hopefully we’ll get a couple of shots at it.
7. You have some old faces and some new faces in the pit-garage this year, following your test two weeks ago, how is the feeling with your crew?The feeling is really good, the last test was the first time I’ve worked with everybody on the team, it’s my first year with the data engineer who used to be with Valentino obviously knows the bike really well. I’ve been with my Crew Chief and head mechanic for years so I know them really well. I’ve worked with some of my mechanics before either in World Superbike championship, wild cards in MotoGP or in AMA. The team director Massimo Meregalli was my team manager in Superbike and helped me win my first world title.8. What’s your game plan for this next test here in Sepang?During the last test we worked on some key elements, this time we’ll be working on the set up, trying to get that fast lap time out of the bike and some more race distance runs to see how the bike behaves after a few laps. We’ll mess with the electronics a little bit and see what we can do. The last test was evaluating and choosing parts to use for the year, now we have a base pack and we need to fine tune it to go faster!9. Do you have a message for Yamaha racing fans?I think Yamaha is a great team, it’s a great year with the anniversary going on so it’s going to be spectacular. A lot of people are going to be wanting to watch the racing and be involved.10. You’ve had an opportunity to see the 2011 special Yamaha corporate racing blue livery on your bike now, what are your first impressions?I think it’s really good, I love the corporate colours and think it looks very professional. It’s pretty loud and very unique and classic. I’m a big fan of the style!11. What are your predictions for Jorge this season?I think he’s the man to beat for sure. He’s the guy that when he puts his helmet on he has one thing on his mind. On the track he’s matured and we can all see that. He’s got the speed and he’s learnt how to harness it. When he needs to turn it up he’s able to do that so I predict he’s the man to beat, if anyone wants to win the world title they’ve got to go through him.