VALENCIA, SPAIN, NOV 7 - MotoGP Rookie of the Year Ben Spies finished the season with a fourth place finish a week after aggravating an early left ankle injury.The Texan was walking with a noticeable limp, the result of a sighting lap crash in Estoril, but his riding seemed unaffected. In the Valencia season finale he started slowly, as he often does, before catching up to a pack of feuding Hondas. Once he caught a whiff, Spies was unstoppable. Though his fastest lap was the sixth of 30, he was also fast at the end of the race on used tires: His best first split came on the final lap.By then he'd not only passed the Honda riders, Dovizioso, Simoncelli, and Pedrosa, but had put daylight between himself and Repsol Honda's Dovizioso.The Texan had come into the race tied on points with Ducati Marlboro's Nicky Hayden. But Hayden crashed out of second place on the second lap and Spies was a secure sixth overall in his rookie year. He finished with 176 points to Hayden's 163.Now Spies moves up to the factory Yamaha team as world champion Jorge Lorenzo's teammate. He'll get to test the bike as a factory rider for the first time this coming Tuesday and Wednesday. And he leaves behind a team that enjoyed better results than it ever had."I'm happy with the race," Spies said. "I got a good start compared to the ones I've been getting and felt I was more in tune with the bike in the first couple of laps. But it seemed like when someone was passing somebody and stuffing them up I was the wrong side of them and getting caught. Otherwise I got settled in and then saw Marco (Simoncelli) coming back. Andrea (Dovizioso) couldn't get around him, so I just tried to keep them within one second then when I wanted to pounce I came as hard as I could an draft."They had some acceleration on me off the turns so I knew when I made the pass it needed to be into a string of corners not onto a straight so as soon as I passed Dovi into Turn 2 I just lit for a couple of laps as hard as I could and got rid of them. They were riding good and we were sliding all over the place."I wish I could have been up closer but to finish fourth again after last week. It has been a great season. I said at the beginning of the season that a top five feels like a win and now this feels more normal and I gotta thank to team, everybody this year. It has been a fantastic season, now I've got to get better next season."As for the season's achievements, he said, "I'm patting myself on the back and also my crew when I look at the class of the riders that are in front of me and behind me. It is thanks to the crew and Yamaha. I ride the bike for 45 minutes, but you need a good support crew. I look ahead to next year and I have to improve and be a better rider in every way. Maybe not hugely but I've got to improve in everything to take the next step to battle up front."

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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.

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