Ben Spies Interview - Racing

Five races into his rookie season, America’s newest MotoGP star has already made his mark.

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Reigning World Superbike Champion Ben Spies was the guest on a Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix teleconference call earlier this week. Spies phoned from the Netherlands, where he is competing this weekend in the annual Assen TT, the sixth round of the 2010 MotoGP World Championship. The Monster Yamaha Tech3 rider scored his first series podium finish—a third behind race winner Jorge Lorenzo and second-place finisher Andrea Dovizioso—this past weekend at the British Grand Prix at the newly reconfigured Silverstone circuit.

Cycle World: Can you describe your final-lap pass on Nicky Hayden at Silverstone for third place?

“We tried one in the beginning of the last lap and didn’t get it done. My plan was to get as close as I could going off the back straightaway so that when we went into the third turn—the tight right-hander—I would be able to kind of slingshot and pass on the inside and kind of do a block pass.

“But Nicky saw that I was there when I tried to pass him earlier in the lap, so he was definitely riding a little defensive but also trying to catch second place. Off the back straightaway, he just got in a little bit too hot and, luckily, I was close enough where I could capitalize on it. If I’d been another bike length or two behind, I wouldn’t have been able to do anything, but we were able sneak by him on the inside.

“I didn’t have to do my planned pass, which was going to be two corners later. It worked out for us. It was one of those last laps; everybody was on the limit. He made a small mistake, and we were just close enough to be able to be there for it.”

CW: Were you surprised to find yourself in that position?

“Yes and no. We saw that we had pretty good pace on the weekend, but we were a little bit down on top speed. I was worried that if I didn’t get off the line in a good position, it was going to be hard to pass people. But we passed Simoncelli and Pedrosa, and I could see we were closing on the podium spots. Once I saw that I could run the pace with those guys, I tried to save my tire as much as I could and be there for any mistakes or try to make some passes.

MotoGP star Ben Spies

Monster Yamaha Tech3 rider Ben Spies earned his first podium at the British Grand Prix. Teammate Colin Edwards finished ninth.

“With a few laps to go, we got past de Puniet and were set up in fourth place. I saw that I had some strong spots, and we were able to get up in there. Honestly, after qualifying seventh, having the crash on Saturday, I didn’t think a podium was possible. I thought a fifth or sixth place was possible. But we just rode as hard as we could, made good passes, had good lap times, were consistent and able to get on the box.”

CW: Are you and longtime crew chief Tom Houseworth working any differently this season than in years past?

“No. It’s just like it was last year and back in the Yoshimura days. I come in, I talk with him, we talk with the suspension technician and there’s always a Japanese engineer. We shoot a lot of ideas through everybody, and that’s pretty much it. We try to keep things consistent, which is important. Pretty much, we’re doing the same stuff we did last year, because it’s new tracks and a new bike for me, just like it was last year. How we work together is pretty much the same as how it’s always been.”

CW: Each rider is limited to six engines this season. Based on what you’ve experienced so far, will you have enough engines to make it through the entire year?

“I haven’t had any problem with that. We’ve been good on mileage, and I’m sure the factory has been happy with what we’ve been doing. The only bad thing is, when you have a couple of crashes, the bike gets laid over on its side, you can easily write off a low-mileage engine. We’ve been lucky with the couple crashes I’ve had. I know, for me, where I’m at in the season, it’s not an issue at all.”

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