Mistake on Grid Costs Spies in Estoril

Henny Ray Abrams | May 1, 2011

ESTORIL, PORTUGAL, MAY 1 – From the first shots of Ben Spies on the MotoGP telecast viewers were confused. They weren’t alone.When the race began, Spies found a stray tool sticking out of his gas tank. The location of the tool, used to temporarily block the fuel overflow pipe near the front brake lever, made it impossible for Spies to brake properly, which caused him to alter his riding, and ultimately crash.When Spies was first asked about his problems, in a post-race debrief in Yamaha’s hospitality area, he said a press release would explain what had happened. But after Spies tried to explain the situation, without being specific, a Yamaha spokesman cleared up the issue, allowing Spies to speak more openly.”The big problem was in the first lap and a half, the piece that was left on the bike was getting caught in between my hand and the brake and the bar,” he said, explaining why he was reaching for the right grip with his left hand. “And I actually did almost hit Casey (Stoner). And once I realized we had a problem I was trying to get it off the bike as safely as I could without endangering anybody else or me. And those were a couple of the reasons I was running wide. I didn’t feel comfortable in the braking zone to brake with anybody and to be behind anybody and once I did get the piece off the bike I thought everything was going to be OK and we could continue to race. But then I noticed there was a tube that had come loose, obviously in the front right region and I didn’t know if it was…it could’ve been something that was nothing, it could’ve been something coming from the brake. And I was trying to understand what it was and race. It spelled for a disaster of a race.”The mistake was simple human error, which Spies was willing to forgive, though he admitted that he was upset after the race.”It was just a mistake and it happens and, like I said, I was upset about it, but I’m sure there was more people that are upset more than I am,” he said. “But it was a little bit of a safety issue, I thought, and that’s why I was riding the way I was riding. It just was, it was unfortunate. Because, like I said, the team had made the bike a lot better this weekend. I was definitely confident in the race and I think we could’ve put together a really good race and that’s where I am happy with the team. We did make big strides with the bike and made it a lot better and I believe we had a top five bike and it was just a mistake before the race. It almost cost us once. I just tried to kind of determine what was going on with the bike, but I couldn’t, so I was not able to ride the way I wanted to ride and that’s it.”Spies said he was too nervous to get into braking wars with other riders, “so where I was having to push the bike to make up for it was more going into the corner after we were on the brakes and I was just riding the front tire too hard. And when I did, I did hit a bump and crashed.”The crash, on the 13th of 28 laps, came in the last of the three right-handers that start a lap of the Estoril Circuit.”The problem we had with the bike is not the reason I crashed, the reason I crashed is I was having to ride the bike different than I wanted to because I didn’t feel 100% confident in braking and there were a couple of times that I did run off the track that wasn’t really, didn’t really need to run off the track, but we were having some problems and I didn’t want to get in anybody’s way,” he said. “And I didn’t feel comfortable being in the mix of things. I didn’t know what was going to happen. Again, safety for me and other riders, I didn’t want to be in anybody’s mess. I didn’t want to cause a race to get ended. I had to kind of ride a little bit safe and, yeah, there were three times I ran off the track that I really shouldn’t have. But I was thinking more of other riders than myself.”Again, it’s one of those things, I’ve made dumb mistakes in the past, there was a mistake made today, but it’s not going to happen again and we’ll rally back together and get out of this weekend and I’ll start Le Mans with a brand new championship.”



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.