Ben Spies held a press conference Sunday morning from the bed of his motorhome to update the media on his condition following a crash while practicing for the Indianapolis Grand Prix. Despite receiving a pain-killing injection minutes before the interview, the 29-year-old Texan was in great discomfort, his left hand and wrist visibly bruised and swollen.
The Pramac Racing Ducati MotoGP rider said he felt like a train hit him. “I had a really rough night. The shoulder is still the same; it’s definitely separated. The only thing that is unclear is my wrist and hand. Nothing’s displaced, but it’s really swollen, and I have quite a bit of pain.”
Spies highsided exiting Turn 4 during the third free practice, which was held Saturday morning. “I’ve watched the crash a couple of times,” he said. “I think I separated my shoulder when I landed on the bike.”
Pramac Racing Team Manager Francesco Guidotti also attended the press conference. He explained that traction control on the Ducati GP13 only becomes active once the rider shifts into second gear. Doing so also deactivates the pit-lane speed limiter, which can likewise be disengaged by pressing a button on the handlebar cluster. Why two options? If the rider runs off the track into a gravel trap and traction control is functioning, he wouldn’t be able to extricate himself from the kitty litter. Spies had manually deactivated the pit-lane speed limiter, but because he hadn’t upshifted into second, traction control was not engaged.
“It’s my fault,” said Spies. “Usually, you come out of pit lane and hit second gear. But this track is unique: You stay in first gear all the way until you’re out of Turn 4. If I’d been riding the bike throughout the season, it probably would have been in my head.”
Several years ago at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Loris Capirossi told me, “If you take off the electronics, this bike is unrideable—worse than a 500.” He was speaking of the Suzuki GSV-R, but you get the idea.
Spies was making his return to competition this weekend after missing seven rounds of the world championship following off-season surgery on his right shoulder. “I wasn’t happy to be in 12th place,” he said, “but we were less than a second off [fellow Ducati riders] Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso, who have been riding the bikes week in and week out, testing, dialing in the settings.
“I really messed up the comeback I wanted, to lead into the end of the season and start of next year,” said Spies. “But it’s not an injury like I faced eight months ago. We just have to wait until I see my doctor.”