Spies Shows Speed at Indy

Speedway impresses; work still to be done. Now with video!


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Ben Spies followed a points-scoring MotoGP debut as a stand-in for injured Suzuki factory rider Loris Capirossi this past June at Donington Park in England with two days of testing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in early July. The 23-year-old two-time AMA Superbike Champion and current series points-leader made a total of 224 laps around the 16-turn, 2.62-mile roadcourse, which combines elements of the Formula One circuit with brand-new sections designed by track engineer Kevin Forbes and laid down specifically for September's inaugural Red Bull Indianapolis GP.

Spies was joined at the "Racing Capital of the World" by development teams from Ducati, Honda, Kawasaki and Yamaha, the latter using two YZR-M1s and riders Wataru Yoshikawa and William Costes to separately evaluate both Bridgestone and Michelin tires. Twenty-year-old reigning World Superstock Champion Niccolo Canepa turned in the quickest overall laps—a 1:44.1756 on day one and a 1:43.0069 on day two—outpacing Spies in windy conditions toward the end of the final day of testing by just .0843 of a second.

A native of Longview, Texas, Spies is scheduled to contest both July's Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and the Indianapolis GP, teaming with Rizla Suzuki regulars Capirossi and Chris Vermeulen. He took a methodical approach to the test, working up to speed while alternating between two current-spec 800cc V-Four GSV-Rs built by the factory specifically for his use. Yoshimura Suzuki crew chief Tom Houseworth, who accompanied Spies to England, also attended the test.

Overall opinion of the circuit was positive, though criticism was levied at the lack of grip in Turns 1 through 4, and the proximity to the racing line of the outside wall along the long start/finish straight. Regarding the latter issue, Kawasaki test rider and 2000 250cc World Champion Olivier Jacque said, "I'm only 1 meter from the wall, so you really appreciate the speed." Added FIM Safety Director Claude Danis, "Everything was according to what we decided on my last inspection. Of course, there are small adjustments to be done." According to IMS, those adjustments include more artificial turf near Turns 1 and 16, installation of curbing, final sod work, additional roadcourse striping and removal of some oval striping.