Spies, Spies, Spies!

Henny Ray Abrams | June 25, 2011

ASSEN, HOLLAND, JUNE 25 – Yamaha’s Ben Spies added his name to the elite roster of American premier class winners with a breakthrough win to celebrate Yamaha’s 50th anniversary in the World Championships in the Dutch TT at the “Cathedral of Racing” in Assen, Holland.From second on the grid, and racing in the iconic white, red, and black Yamaha livery, Spies took advantage of opening lap chaos to immediately open a gap of over two seconds on the first lap. In the first third of the opening lap of 26, Spies’ teammate Jorge Lorenzo was taken out by San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Marco Simoncelli, who was being incautious in the first left hand corner on the cold 61F track. Simoncelli lost the rear of his Honda in the de Strubben hairpin, with Lorenzo having nowhere to go and running into him. Both restarted, but well down the order.Meanwhile, Spies was streaming ahead on a cold, overcast day on a track with damp patches off line, but a dry racing line. Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner cut into Spies’ lead from laps eight through 11, but that was it. From then on Spies upped the pace and cruised to his first MotoGP victory with a cushion of 7.697 secs. Stoner was second with teammate Andrea Dovizioso third.Spies’ maiden win came in his 28th MotoGP start on a track where he’d won a World Superbike race en route to the 2009 World Superbike title. The Texan known as “Elbowz” became only the second World Superbike rider to win a MotoGP race: Troy Bayliss won the 2006 Valencia season finale in a one-off appearance on the Ducati Marlboro team. It was also the first win for an American since Nicky Hayden won his home grand prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in 2006.Spies was especially proud to win while racing in Yamaha’s commemorative colors at a track full of history, including that of his fellow Americans. By winning in Assen, Spies joins fellow American Yamaha riders Kenny Roberts, Wayne Rainey, and Eddie Lawson as premier class GP winners. And he also adds his name to the roster of American GP winners, starting with his mentor Kevin Schwantz, and continuing with Nicky Hayden, Kenny Roberts Jr., Randy Mamola, Freddie Spencer, John Kocinski, Jimmy Filice, and Pat Hennen, the first American to win a 500cc GP.”It’s special, because this track is a track I grew up watching all my heroes race on forever,” he said, recalling the epic battles among Schwantz, Rainey, and Mick Doohan. “And with this weekend being the 50th anniversary for Yamaha, I don’t know how it all came together.”I had a friend over from the States and all the special colors here at Assen, with the way the weather was, maybe it just all happened for a reason and we were able to do it today.”The race was tough in some ways and easy in some ways. But it was great to have a good rhythm and be by myself where I coulda kind set the pace and it made it difficult the last five laps, but it was fun. Congratulations to these guys. And I’ve got to thank Yamaha; they gave me a great bike today.”With Lorenzo on the ground, Stoner wasn’t willing to take too many chances. He’d fallen on the cold left side of the tire on Friday morning and the track was as cold today. Coming off three wins in a row, the Australian entered the race in the World Championship lead, which he didn’t want to jeopardize. So once Spies upped the pace, Stoner was content to pad his lead with second place points.”Absolutely blew the start,” Stoner said about wasting his front row start. “Went into turn one and I was just scared of getting taken out myself and tried to get through as quick as I could. And as I went into the first left-hander I saw Jorge (Lorenzo) and Marco (Simoncelli) go down and knew that from that moment on I had to finish the race. No matter what, we’re not going to go through the effort of the last three weekends to lose it today. I did the best I could, tried to stay as safe as possible.”Over the next couple of laps tried and warm the left side of the tire up. Even by the time I caught up to Andrea (Dovizioso), Ben (Spies) was gone. He’d taken every advantage of that sort of mishap in that first left-hander and pulled a massive gap the first two laps. So tried to pull that back.”Once I got comfortable I started gaining a little bit of time, but it was hard with something in the back of your mind telling you, ‘Don’t push,’ when you have the front slip and push and everything. In the middle of the race, after I was pushing for a while, I had a bit of a break and then tried to push again, but then Ben had already got into his rhythm and pulled it all the way.”

So my hat’s off to Ben. Did an awesome job today, all weekend to be honest, and I think it was going to be tough to beat him today no matter what the conditions.”

Dovizioso had the best view of the Simoncelli-Lorenzo incident and saw it as a cautionary tale. And he was also racing on the softer option front, which he wasn’t sure would do race distance. He said he tried to follow Stoner, but “I couldn’t keep that lap time all the race. And I was going a little bit slower and tried to save the rear tire because start a vibration and I was scared because coming bigger and bigger. But fortunately Valentino (Rossi) wasn’t so fast, so I can control the big gap. Anyway it’s a really good result in this condition, this track for me and just thank you for the team, all the people working for me.”Ducati Marlboro teammates Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden finished fourth and fifth respectively, separated by about 12.5 secs. Rossi’s finish was better than expected after he’d qualified down in 11th place. He was hoping for a wet race-he was second fastest in wet practice-but it wasn’t to be.Hayden’s fifth was his best dry finish of the year, despite an eventful race. Hayden went out with a complete wet set-up, then on the grid changed to a dry set-up. Hayden got heat in the tires quickly and then early on he pushed the front a couple times, once by touching the white line, and a few other times he hit what he thought might be an oil slick, causing him to lose confidence.

He was passed at one point by Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Colin Edwards, but Edwards later had tire problems and had to back off. Edwards was passed late in the race by Lorenzo and finished seventh.Hiroshi Aoyama was eighth riding the Repsol Honda in place of the injured Dani Pedrosa. Pedrosa is expected back next weekend at Mugello.Simoncelli finished ninth with bodywork falling off his bike by passing LCR Honda MotoGP’s Toni Elias on the final lap.After seven of 18 races, Stoner has 136 points to 108 for Lorenzo. Dovizioso is third with 99. Hayden moved into fifth and Spies is tied with Pedrosa for sixth with 61.MotoGP Results:1. Ben Spies (Yamaha)

2. Casey Stoner (Honda)

3. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda)

4. Valentino Rossi (Ducati)

5. Nicky Hayden (Ducati)

6. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha)

7. Colin Edwards (Yamaha)

8. Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda)

9. Marco Simoncelli (Honda)

10. Toni Elias (Honda)
Full coverage of the Dutch GP will be available on Tuesday in the weekly digital version of Cycle News. For this week’s issue, click the link below.http://cyclenews.coverleaf.com/cyclenews/20110621#pg1

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.