Yamaha’s Ben Spies will start Sunday’s Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix with a possibly broken heel following a high-side during qualifying at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
With about 12 minutes remaining in the hour-long session, Spies was entering the Turn 3 right when he got on the gas too early, the rear stepped out and he was flicked into the air. The Texan landed hard on his heel and head, and was clearly groggy once he got to his feet. Spies made it back to his garage, where he spent some time with his team before rejoining qualifying with a little over four minutes to run. He was able to improve his qualifying time, but not his position, and will start the tenth round of the MotoGP World Championship from the second row pole in fourth place.
Teammate Jorge Lorenzo is on pole with a new lap record, with Repsol Honda teammates Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa next to him.
“It’s just, the crash was just, I mean, a normal crash,” Spies said after arriving for the post-qualifying news conference on crutches. “Got on the gas a little too early and had a small high-side and came down pretty hard on my heal. It’s a bit complicated with heel injuries, just because there’s so many small bones. Unfortunately I’ve broken a few of ‘em in the past. Right now, until the swelling goes down, it’s a little unclear is there is a small fracture or not. There’s a lot of pain in the heel, but I think on the bike there’s no problem. And other than that I hit my head pretty hard and we’ll just wait and see in the morning and see how I feel.”
Earlier he’d said that the “weekend’s been going actually pretty good. All the sessions have been going pretty smoothly. Qualifying was going good and just made a small mistake in Turn 3 and had a bit of a high-side, and that was about it. So we’ll just try to get some rest for tomorrow and see how we heal up from that and how I feel in the morning. And I want to feel good, because the bike’s working good and I think we can have a good strong race.”
Spies said he’d get a check-up with the track medical staff in the morning to judge his fitness for the race.
Up to the point of the crash, his race pace had been strong. Not as strong as Lorenzo’s, who looks unbeatable, but enough to be competitive for a podium position, he believes.
“We need to improve a little bit, but I think we have enough pace to fight for the podium, maybe, obviously, not for the win,” he said. “But maybe if we can have good pace, and depending on how the race goes with the physical being of the track and how the tires are, I think we’re quick enough to think about getting on the podium. So that’s all we can do right now, and we’ll get some more data and try to improve the bike and find some more speed for tomorrow.”
Having announced earlier in the week that he was leaving Yamaha, Spies was again questioned about his future. An Italian website, gpone.com, quoted the new boss of the director of BMW Italy, which will be largely responsible for BMW’s World Superbike effort next year, as saying, “With Ben Spies we are at a good point.” The website speculated that the agreement is nearly done for Spies to join Marco Melandri on the official team.
“That’s what you read?” Spies asked. “No, I haven’t made a decision yet and still going to be some time until I do. And like I said two days ago, when I make a decision I will announce it, but right now I don’t know what I’m going to do and we have many offers from other people, so we just wait and see.”