MONTMELO, SPAIN, JULY 1: Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Ben Spies is one of the many pieces of a MotoGP puzzle that has yet to be solved. What makes Spies unique is that the Texan is one of the few riders who has a contract for 2011. He knows he'll be racing MotoGP and he knows he'll be on a Yamaha. Other than that...Spies shared the stage with Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo, and Dani Pedrosa at the pre-race press conference for Sunday's Catalunya Grand Prix, but Spies was the only one asked about his future. And he gave the most honest answer he could. Spotting Yamaha race boss Lin Jarvis in the back row of the press conference, Spies smiled and said, "I see a man in the blue back there that can probably answer that question. I'll be on a Yamaha next year. I know that. We'll just see. That's not my decision."Every Sunday I'm trying to put it on the line and get the best result I can. I feel like the way that everything's been going, if there was a spot that was to open up, I think I'd be looked at quicker than most people. We just gotta see. At the end of the day to get on the factory team you have to get results no matter what. So we continue to do what we've been doing, pushing, and right now haven't been told anything. So just do what we can on Sunday. See what happens."Later he added, "Someone has to make a decision besides me. It's not my decision, unfortunately. Again, all I can do is push and you might be able to ask him at the end of the press conference."As soon as the press conference ended, Jarvis bolted from the room. That gained him a temporary respite, but he'll certainly be asked the "Is Rossi going?" question more than once this weekend. And his answer won't change. Should Rossi make the move to Ducati, as current speculation suggests, it would open up a spot on the Fiat Yamaha team. Given his recent performances - third in Silverstone, fourth in Assen - Spies is the obvious candidate, but nothing is certain. And if Rossi decides not to move, Spies will spend a second year with the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team.
In the meantime Spies is concentrating on racing. Catalunya is yet another new circuit for the Texan, one that he'll call on the experience of another Texan, teammate Colin Edwards, to get him started. Once practice starts on Friday afternoon he's on his own to find out where the Formula One cars have rippled the track."Yeah, it's not a fun thing to do, especially coming on the podium in Silverstone and the fourth last weekend," he said. "The expectations get more and more. It's fun to deal with. Now we come to a place we don't know, so it's the same thing we've done all year. Even when we haven't the greatest results, we put in the best effort as we can and we'll do that this weekend. Got to learn the track tomorrow and we'll just see what we can do. Try to keep the head down and try to make every session progress and see what we can do Sunday."
Assen was one of the tracks Spies had seen, so he didn't have to spend Friday learning his way around. But the first half of the race didn't go well and he said that he was a "bit of a rolling roadblock for Casey [Stoner] and Dani [Pedrosa] the first few laps and wasn't happy with how I rode. But towards the middle, the end of the race, I was happy with it, but now we've got to come learn the track, take it session by session and see what we can do."
Spies has spent considerable energy diminishing expectations, to no good affect. The podium came sooner than he'd expected and he backed it up with a solid fourth in Assen. He doesn't know Catalunya, but his growing familiarity with the Yamaha YZR-M1 means he can quickly get up to speed."I'm happy with how it's going," he said. "It's not easy. These guys are fast."He continued. "I think a lot of people thought we were just going to come in and do some miraculous thing this year and I knew coming in we weren't. But I've been happy with myself, progressing and learning, and taking each weekend by weekend. Sometimes bad things happen. You've got to shake them off and start new again. We've had to do that a couple times this year. Overall I think I'm learning, I think I'm getting better. Things are changing, so we just keep going like that."