Ben Spies: All business.
Day one of our World Superbike adventure is in the books and it was nothing short of action packed. First things first, Ben Spies showed the world that they are in his playground at Miller Motorsports Park, easily taking his seventh-straight Superpole of the season. Making this even more impressive, it now gives the ‘Texas Terror’ (as it says on the back of his new helmet) the outright record for the most consecutive World Superbike poles, in his first seven races in the series. Who held the previous record? None other than fellow American and fellow Texan Doug Polen, who did it well over a decade ago.
It didn’t come easy, though. But Spies biggest challenger wasn’t another rider, it came from Mother Nature, who was scattering sprinkles of rain throughout the last two rounds of the three-round Superpole qualifying session, with some parts of the track dry and others wet. As for the rest of the riders, Carlos Checa was second and Ryuichi Kiyonari third, though Spies easily had them covered, posting a 1:48.344 to Checa’s 1:48.908. And in typical stoic Spies fashion, it was the crowd and media who made a big deal of the new record, not Ben himself. We hung out with him before qualifying and he was cool and calm as could be.
“Everyone keeps talking about the seven-straight record and everything else,” said Spies. “I’m just taking it one race at a time. My goal is to always start on pole; what matters is tomorrow. The record is great but honestly it’s the furthest thing from my mind. I’m out there to do my job and that’s to qualify as best as I can.”
Weather caused plenty of drama in Superpole today.
Other interesting events included early front-runner Max Biaggi crashing out on the opening lap of qualifying session two and in the process destroying his chances of moving up any further. He led practice yesterday and looked to be the guy Spies would be most worried about, but quickly took himself out with a high-speed low-side. He was up and walking away, even trying to ride again, but ran out of time to set a fast lap.
Some helpful hints from his good friend Spies helped fellow American Jamie Hacking to an impressive second row starting spot in eighth position as a wildcard rider for the Paul Bird Motorsports Kawasaki team. Hacking even topped qualifying one in front of Spies, and then easily progressed through the second round as well to make the final eight. With the rules stating each rider only gets two qualifying tires and there being three sessions, strategy plays a major role in making the cut each time, to which no doubt Hacking played his cards just right. Two Americans in the top two rows – not bad for the home team!
Our third American, Jake Zemke, struggled on the Stiggy motorsports Honda and failed to make the Superpole cut, qualifying in 23rd position.
Also on the low end of the spectrum were the BMW boys, both of which missing Superpole for the first time all season, qualifying 21st and 22nd. While the new S1000RR bikes make plenty of power and were strong yesterday, the crew from Munich are having a hard time getting the bhp to the ground, which is causing them quite the headaches.
When Spies shows up so does all of Texas. Just have a look at his special HJC helmet for the event.
“We have plenty of power, but getting it to work in the right order is hard,” said rider Ruben Xaus. “But for a brand new team with a brand new motorcycle these guys are doing an amazing job. Right now we just need to work with the electronics to get the power to the ground more smoothly and this will help in all areas (of the bike). I’m really happy to be here though and I know the bike can win once we get the time to develop it.”
Their other rider Troy Corser was recently injured in Monza, though we spoke to him and he’s doing much better.
“Yeah, Monza was tough,” he said. “Getting taken out at the beginning and then going back out I really wanted to get back at it and just made a mistake in traffic and went down again. Luckily the BMW boys agreed for me to take the last round in South African off to rest and now I’m feeling far better.”
It’s a bit harder than it looks. Trust me!
We didn’t have the change to chat with either post qualifying, but considering their lackluster performances it was no surprise they disappeared off to their motor homes as quick as possible.
This about wraps up the happenings for day one out at MMP. On a side note, we had a chance to visit our friends at Ogio, who are based here in Salt Lake, when we got in last night and the end result was some foam-pit madness trying to back-flip BMX bikes. While beat up and bruised today, learning how to back-flip was well worth the pain. So, on that note, stay tuned for more inside info tomorrow…