Two Motorcycle Racers from Texas: Colin Edwards and Ben Spies Talk MotoGP—By Matthew Miles

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American MotoGP stars Colin Edwards and Ben Spies are on a roll. After a bumpy start to the 2011 season, particularly for the 27-year-old Spies, the former Monster Yamaha Tech 3 teammates have now turned in a trio of podium finishes, including an all-laps-led victory for Spies this past June at TT Assen in the Netherlands.

While the 37-year-old Edwards stayed with the French-based, Herve Poncheral-led Tech 3 team this season, Spies took over the factory Yamaha slot that opened up when nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi left for Ducati. Spies has since been confirmed to remain with the squad for 2012, as well.

Both riders recently took part in separate teleconferences hosted by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Preparations for the fourth annual Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix, August 26-28, included repaving Turns 5 through 16 of its 2.621-mile infield roadcourse.

Despite their recent successes, at the time of the interviews, both riders were recovering from injuries: Edwards had broken his collarbone and torn rib muscles practicing for the Spanish GP at Catalunya; Spies smacked his tailbone against a concrete barrier after a 165-mph crash in the rain at Silverstone in England.

Here’s what they had to say:

Cycle World: Was the infield repaving at The Speedway necessary?

Colin Edwards: That's a tricky question. We all have to race on the same thing. So, I don't think it's, let's say, unfair for all of us to go out there on whatever the pavement is. Is it going to be nicer? Hell, yeah. Is it going to be more of a pleasure to go race there? Of course. Setup is going to be a heck of a lot easier. You're not going to have to setup for a few of the fast corners and then just survive the rest of the track. You can pretty much set it up for the whole track. That's one good advantage to it.

CW: Ben, you took a pretty good whack at Silverstone. Do you have any lingering injuries from that crash?

Ben Spies: A little bit. I'm 100 percent on the bike. But I have a little bit of pain in my lower back. I did take a big, big hit. But it didn't slow me down at Assen. Moving around every day, I can feel that I hit the wall going 25 or 30 miles an hour. That's what we have to do sometimes—race with a little bit of pain. That's our job. I'm 90 percent full fitness.

CW: What's your view of next season's claiming-rules option? Do you think, for example, that a Swiss Suter chassis with a BMW engine or a Japanese Moriwaki chassis with a Kawasaki engine could be competitive against current or future MotoGP prototypes?

Edwards: Man, I don't know how to answer that. Generally, the factory bikes are at the pointy end of the field. Is it a possibility? Sure, anything is possible. The budget has to be large, and you've got to have a good rider—someone who knows what the hell he's doing—to be able to give you the correct information when you bring in a new chassis or put a different engine in a chassis. Can it work? Sure, but things have to happen in the right order.

CW: Do you think it's a good way for MotoGP to expand the field?

Edwards: Absolutely. I think having 15 people start a motorcycle race is ridiculous. Especially in Grand Prix, and especially when you've got, what, 24 Formula One cars starting. Fifteen is not enough; low- to mid-20s, at a bare minimum.

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Colin Edwards1

CW: Is early application of the throttle in corners critical to getting heat into the MotoGP-spec Bridgestone tires?

Edwards: It's so hard to go out there and commit to something you have no feeling. You've got to trust your electronics and what the bike is telling you. I'm probably one of the slowest guys out of the pits on Bridgestones. I like to work my way over on the side, and once I get there, I can pretty much hammer it out. crossed-up going in, as I did in Barcelona, that's when you're going to get hurt.

Even Valentino had his problems last year with the cold tire. But he’s still one of the fastest guys out of the pit. It makes me nervous just to watch. He goes into Turn 1 and 2 and flicks it on the side, and I’m like, ‘Oh, God.’ It just doesn’t look safe. But once the tires heat up, they’re fantastic. It’s just that first couple of lefts and rights that are a little bit timid.

CW: You were supposed to test next year's 1000 after the race at Mugello, but that test has now been pushed back to later this summer after the Brno round in the Czech Republic. Have you been involved with the development of that bike so far?

Spies: Yes and no. We obviously haven't ridden the 1000 yet, and we're going to be riding it later. We haven't been doing a lot of work, even with the 800, just different chassis setups and trying different things that will move over to the 1000. I think it's actually a blessing in disguise that we're going to ride it a little bit later, because when we ride it, we won't just have the bike to ride. We'll have the bike to ride plus parts to test to give the engineers a better direction to go for the second test.

CW: Do you have a contract for 2012, and has Yamaha asked you for your input on the 1000?

Edwards: My wife still wants to be married in 2012. I'm pretty excited about that! As far as racing motorcycles, no, I don't have a contract at the moment. Obviously, in talks and negotiations. As far as Yamaha is concerned, it's just a matter of signing a piece of paper and making sure I'm not riding anything else before I jump on the 1000 and test it."