Texan Ben Spies is one of the hottest commodities in road racing. We caught up with him after the recent announcement that he’s moving up to GPs a year earlier than most thought.
Following months of speculation, Ben Spies finally confirmed that he will be a MotoGP rider in 2010. Having secured nine pole positions, six fastest laps and 12 race wins in his rookie season, the 25 year old American is under no illusion of the mammoth task ahead of him when he makes the switch to MotoGP in 2010.
Spies said: “When I do make the move I know that I’m not going to be battling Valentino or Jorge – I’m not stupid. As a rider I’m ok with that because I know that those guys are the best riders in the world.
“I’m only 25 and I’ve got a good ten years of racing left. I’m not afraid to go and get beat and my goal in GP’s would be to go and finish in the top eight every weekend. I’m not blind to how hard it’s going to be, but I’m not scared of trying it either. If I finish in fifth place and I see that it’s Dani, Casey, Jorge and Valentino in front of me I’m not going to be disappointed about it. I know how good those guys are so then it would be a matter of time.”
The biggest challenge he faces is getting to a level where he can push an 800cc prototype race bike with high grip Bridgestone tires to the limit. Having spent a career racing Superbikes he took a matter of minutes to find the limits of the Yamaha when he arrived in WSB, but in MotoGP it won’t be that simple, as Britain ’s James Toseland has found out.
“There is an extremely big learning curve with a GP bike compared with a Superbike. In GP’s you’ve got a bike and tires that can do so much more than in WSB and you’ve got to learn to push it to the limit.”
While Spies remains realistic about his chances of success he remains confident that it’s down to a matter of being given the time to adapt.
“I think talent wise and given enough seat time I can be competitive, but how long that will take and how I adapt to it I don’t know. I know that the first year I go to MotoGP I’m probably not going to step on the podium.”
In recent years there have been inevitable comparisons between WSB and MotoGP riders. History shows that Superbike riders have generally been unable to make the grade in MotoGP. Obvious exceptions are 2006 world champion Nicky Hayden and 2006 Valencia race winner Troy Bayliss, but both men achieved success on the big horsepower 990s and there has been less for WSB men to shout about since the class switched the high-corner-speed 800s. Unlike Toseland, who went to MotoGP with no experience, Spies has at least raced in the class in 2008 onboard the Rizla Suzuki, with a best result of sixth place.
“I’m not talking in a big headed way, but if you brought Rossi to WSB, I don’t doubt that he’s going to be there and he could beat me and that’s fine, but he’s not going to beat me by 30 seconds – there is no way.” – Spies.
“I used to be a better 600 rider that I was on a Superbike, but I accept that I’m going to have to adapt well. It’s a big change, I know because I’ve ridden one. When I was on the Suzuki I know how comfortable I was, which wasn’t very, and I know that it wasn’t the best bike out there. There are a lot of differences between the two classes and it will take time and whether I can do it I don’t know. What I know is that I can ride a Superbike with the best of them and now I want to find out if I can do the same in MotoGP.
“I’m not talking in a big headed way, but if you brought Rossi to WSB, I don’t doubt that he’s going to be there and he could beat me and that’s fine, but he’s not going to beat me by 30 seconds – there’s no way. For sure on a GP bike it’s definitely possible he could beat me by a big margin because he is used to those limits. But if you took a mid-pack guy from GP and threw him on a Superbike – he isn’t going to win.”