Ben Spies will miss the third round of this year’s MotoGP world championship in Jerez, Spain, due to an injury sustained last weekend at his home race in Texas, the inaugural Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas. Ducati test rider Michele Pirro is expected to take Spies’ place on the Ignite Pramac Racing V-Four.
On Wednesday, Spies, 28, underwent back-to-back, hour-long MRIs in Dallas to determine the extent of the damage. The 2010 MotoGP rookie of the year said he feels pain in the crease between his right pectoral muscle and shoulder. “Worst case is a tear,” he said, “best case is a severe strain.”
Spies was able to pinpoint the moment during Sunday’s pre-race morning warm-up that the injury occurred. “I was going from Turn 2 to Turn 3,” he said. “Change of direction is from right to left, so you’re pushing on the left handlebar, pulling on the right handlebar. I pulled pretty hard, and I felt something pop and tighten up, like I’d just been stabbed in my chest.”
Last October, the former Yamaha factory rider had reconstructive surgery on his right shoulder to repair damage from a heavy fall in the wet Malaysian Grand Prix. Cadaver tissue was used in the 90-minute operation, and Spies spent most of the off-season with his arm immobilized.
“A lot of people don’t understand the magnitude of the injury,” said Spies. “You don’t just bounce back in a week or two. I’m here to say that it’s the gnarliest comeback I’ve ever had. I’m not 100 percent, and I have to do things on the bike that aren’t natural. That’s why I hurt my pec muscle.”
Despite the pain, Spies raced on Sunday, lapping consistently in the 2-minute, 7-second range until Lap 16, when he suddenly slowed. “I was trying to stay on the back of [Tech3 Yamaha rider] Bradley Smith,” said Spies. “With about six laps to go, I started having back spasms; I just couldn’t change direction any more. So, I had to take one of the sectors and completely cool down the speed to regroup.”
Spies managed to dip into the 2:08s for two of the five final circuits, Laps 19 and 20, and finished 13th, collecting a few championship points. “I wasn’t going to pull in,” he said, “so I needed to do whatever it took to finish the race.”
Rehabilitation has been ongoing since February, but Spies’ travel schedule has led to inconsistencies in his training. “The problem was, as soon as I was able to start doing rehab on my shoulder, I had to fly everywhere, start testing and doing media stuff. We just haven’t been in a position where I could stay in one place to do three weeks of concentrated, structured work.
“Knowing what I now know, I wouldn’t have missed the start of the season, but I might not have done the two Malaysia tests. But it was important to get back on the bike and try to understand it a little bit.
“My doctor said, ‘If you keep aggravating it, you’re not going to get on top of it.’ I need to get back to 100 percent as quickly as I can to be able to put in the results that I need for the team and me. If that means missing one race, I think that’s a lot smarter decision than suffering and not being able to do the proper treatment.”