Prior to the start of the current MotoGP season, 1993 500cc World Champion Kevin Schwantz was asked if three-time AMA and reigning World Superbike Champion Ben Spies would win a race in his rookie year. Absolutely, replied Schwantz.
Now, with more than half of the season complete, Spies has one pole, two front-row starts, a pair of top-three finishes and is sixth overall in points, just behind reigning and former class champions Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner. Victory, however, remains elusive. Following Spies’ pole-winning, second-place performance at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I asked Schwantz to assess the 26-year-old Texan’s season to date.
“To beat Mat Mladin three years in a row was never going to be an easy feat,” Schwantz began. “The intensity that Ben had even then—‘What’s Mat doing? How is he humiliating me every weekend?’—set a fire inside him. I think Ben continues to feed off that intensity. He realizes that these guys are that much better. Now, he’s made a consistent bridge to that front group. He’s able to qualify and run with Dovizioso, Rossi, Lorenzo and Pedrosa.
“Every lap, every corner, he’s learning. He’s making notes. He’s communicating with [Tech 3 crew chief Tom] Houseworth. What they have now is all that data to show him what Colin [Edwards] is doing, what some of the other Yamaha guys are doing, to help him learn where he needs to improve. He studies that stuff like there’s no tomorrow.
“This was the first weekend, with the exception of Qatar, that Lorenzo hasn’t been the top-finishing Yamaha. It will be interesting to see what happens next year when Ben is Lorenzo’s teammate.”