Ben Spies (on the death of Marco Simoncelli): “These are hard times for a racer. A lot of time people think it is just trophy girls and champagne, but it is hard to line up in a race when something like this has happened.”
Ben Spies has spoken of the moment he had to walk out of a TV commentary box in Sepang when he witnessed the crash that claimed the life of popular Italian rider Marco Simoncelli. Spies was commentating with Gavin Emmett and Nick Harris for the Dorna world feed in Malaysia after he was forced to withdraw from the 20-lap race with injury. The Texan hadn’t recovered sufficiently from rib damage sustained in a high-speed qualifying crash at Phillip Island, and he withdrew in Sepang on Saturday after two more painful crashes in Malaysia.
“For a rider while commentating you can almost see what is happening before it happens, and I just had to walk out, it tore me up,” said Spies. “Even though I wasn’t best friends with Marco, I raced him and we had a lot of great battles and I really liked his character. A lot people here criticized him, but he always came back strong and was fast the next week and put it right back up the inside of somebody when he got the chance. I could never take anything away from him, but when you see something like that happen you look at the big picture. But for all of us this is racing and it’s the nature of the beast that sometimes this happens, and unfortunately it has happened twice in a short time. You can’t question it too much or run it through your head a lot. Watching it from the sidelines you saw everything happen and now we just have to represent and remember Marco and do the best we can.”
Spies said he doubted whether any of the riders in the paddock were in the right frame of mind to compete in the final race in Valencia.
Ben Spies came within a fraction of a second from taking only his second win in MotoGP during the finale.
“I don’t think any of the riders are 100% mentally to just go out for everything like they usually do, but we try to do the best, and I know I will for Yamaha. It is just that these are hard times for a racer. A lot of time people think it is just trophy girls and champagne, but it is hard to line up in a race when something like this has happened and give it your all when that is in the back of your head. But you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”
Despite the recent tragedy though, Spies came within inches of claiming a slice of history for himself when he suffered a last gasp defeat to 2011 world champion Casey Stoner. During the final race of the 800cc era in Valencia Spies looked certain to claim only his second MotoGP victory in tricky conditions when he started the final lap almost 0.4 seconds clear of Stoner’s Repsol Honda RC212V. The Texan, who took his first win in Assen in late June, came out of the last corner in the lead but in the drag to the line he was outgunned by the Aussie, who took his 10th win of the season by the narrowest of margins.
The factory Yamaha rider though was still upbeat after having missed the last two races through injury.
Ben Spies: “I put together a decent last lap and didn’t take any risks to stay consistent, but I got motored to the line. We ended the season on a high note and I am happy with that.”
“It was unfortunate but the way the conditions were it was really hectic and nerve wracking,” Spies said. “I got behind Dovi and Dani and I knew they had their championship battle going on, and at that point I couldn’t even see Casey anymore, so I just decided to wait and see what happened with those two. I was waiting for some fireworks and when there were some I had to capitalize on it and try and move forward. I made some good passes and then all of a sudden some rain starting coming down but I felt comfortable, and the next thing Casey was right in front of us. He made a small mistake when he hit neutral and that put me in the lead, but the last couple of laps were really tough because there was no benchmark to see how slick it was and what pace you could run without sliding around. At that point I wanted to win the race, but I also wanted to keep it on the podium and not end up on the ground again like every session for the last month. I put together a decent last lap and didn’t take any risks to stay consistent, but I got motored to the line. We ended the season on a high note and I am happy with that.”