Steep Learning Curve for Ben Bostrom

Henny Ray Abrams | July 22, 2011

MONTEREY, CA, JULY 22 – Ben Bostrom had a lot to think about.Sitting in the riders lounge of the Jordan Suzuki team trailer, surrounded by team personnel, the 37-year-old first time MotoGP rider was trying to process the data he’d accumulated during his first ride on the LCR Honda MotoGP Team RC212V.Bostrom has ridden a wide variety of equipment, but nothing like a cutting edge MotoGP bike with carbon brakes and Bridgestone tires, so there was plenty to discuss. And he’d have to make sense of it before going back out for Friday’s second free practice later in the afternoon and just before riding his Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000 in the first AMA Superbike practice.He completed the 45-minute session with a best time of 1:27.486, which was 4.986 seconds off the fastest time of 1:22.300 set by Repsol Honda’s Stoner. And it was three seconds slower than he’d gone in taking the pole for last year’s Superbike race here.Before he left for a meeting with HRC (Honda Racing Corporation) engineers, we asked Bostrom for his thoughts.Your first impression.BOSTROM: First impression is I don’t have one, honestly. It’s such a strange alien of a bike and it’s not doing what I want it to do, so it’s hard to judge. I’ve seen what the thing could do, because I had the boys come by me, especially [Casey] Stoner – that was pretty gnarly – and I can’t get it to stop and turn. And I’m just like cruising around going, “Jesus, how much time is left on the table?” Because I’m not making any of the corners and in order to make the corners I gotta literally brake a bit early, so I’m not sure what the situation is, other than maybe the bike needs to be stiffened. But the possibility of the thing being really fun is there. I did find at the end of the session you can open the gas any time you want. It doesn’t try to spit you off. It just regulates your lean angle and how much tire spin. I go, ‘That’s pretty fun.’ And the suspension works so good. There’s no skipping over any of the bumps. It just takes it and starts to spin the tire. The little motor’s interesting as well. Strange having something that revs that high. Makes power, the thing makes beans. But in my case, I was going too slow through the middle of the corners, I could definitely get the thing to fall on its face, so I’ve got a lot to learn.Are the carbon brakes the biggest adjustment?BOSTROM: Yeah, that’s the worst issue right now is not turning, but no brakes. Brakes are worse than turning, because without being able to brake I can’t even load the front. So I’m not sure what to do yet.Is it an issue of heating them up?BOSTROM: I don’t know. I can’t wait to go over there and do a little debrief with the guys [at HRC] to see what the situation is, because the thing’s fun to ride. I just want to go slam it around, but you can’t.On your first run you completed 13 laps. Was that the plan?Yeah, roll around twice. And then the second time I wanted to come in, but the plan was to stay out there so I just to roll around. So I stopped trying to put together any kind of like fast corners and more or less practiced the position of…it’s a different position on the bike. Bars are bent, everything’s strange. Man they go curb to inside and they clip the inside of the curb and come off the bottom, so it’s a lot different than the Superbike. So I thought maybe I’ll just ride around the track and do laps like that and my mind will adjust to that bike and hopefully for the afternoon the set-up will be better, and then we’re already used to taking those lines and do it right, instead of trying to go fast.Did you talk to Ben Spies about tires before going out?BOSTROM: Yeah, I got a good warning. Ben was real cool. He made sure I got my ass over there. He had me on the phone: ‘Get over here.’ That was good. It was good knowledge. Everything he said was absolutely correct, which was you’ve got to be real careful, really careful and don’t think you’re going to, like, sit up and cruise around for half a lap or something. If you’re more than two seconds off your time take it easy in the next corner, because that thing’ll bite you.When you went back out after your first run, it took three laps before you improved your lap time.BOSTROM: Yeah, worried. It’s like you’re taking the new off the tire for the first time. It’s really strange. I’ll have to learn. The last thing I need to do is crash that bike before we get up to speed. I want the thing to be handling good so we can be very aggressive on it. The bike’s interesting. It makes you think so much more than the Superbike. That will make you a good rider. The thought process is pretty intense, right down to knowing how the tire is too and breaking in the tire and understanding how to put heat into it; it’s another big element of it. But we’ll try when we get the thing set. Right now I’m confused.At the press conference you were asked if you could faster on your Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000 Superbike or the Honda RC212V.BOSTROM: Yeah, I intend to go faster on that bike. It’s well capable, but the Superbike right now will definitely beat it.Your pole last year for the Superbike was 1:24.367.BOSTROM: That’s my pole? That’s Toni Elias’s time right now [1:24.324].You’ve got three seconds to find.BOSTROM: But when I roll around on that bike, I feel like I’m like four seconds. And I’m like, ‘God, it just feels so slow like you can run that fast.’ That’s a good thing.



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.