2011 MotoGP Prep
After taking "Rookie of the Year" last season, Ben Spies graduated from the satellite Yamaha team to the factory Yamaha team for the 2011 MotoGP Championship. Spies, who takes the vacant seat left by Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team), is now teammates with reigning MotoGP Champion Jorge Lorenzo.
The 26-year-old of Texas has spent the MotoGP winter break setting up his own cycling team, and preparing for ht upcoming season.
Spies will have his first official test sessions on the factory Yamaha MotoGP protype at the three-day test in Sepang Feb. 1-3.
In the following official MotoGP interview, Spies discusses the upcoming Sepang tests, the factory Yamaha team structure and his objectives for the 2011 MotoGP season.
Ben Spies says: "I have been getting the cycling team going and we had our first race a couple of days ago, it’s been great fun. I’ve been doing my own training too, and getting ready for the first Test. It’s come round quick and I’m excited about getting back on the bike and starting with the new team.
"I haven’t ridden a motorcycle since Valencia so it’s going to take me a little while to get back into the rhythm, but now I’m ready to get back into it."
Continuity will be a key factor for Spies in 2011 and as he steps up to the factory Yamaha team he will carry on working alongside Crew Chief Tom Houseworth and mechanic Gregory Wood, who were both with him in the Tech 3 set-up last year. A notable addition for this year is Massimo ‘Maio’ Meregalli, who will act as Team Manager for Spies’ crew and with whom the American won the 2009 Superbike title.
Ben Spies says: "I have a great team and everyone around me is the best I feel I could put together, now it’s up to me. I feel like a lot of the pressure is off as we have made the step to the factory team, now I’ll just do the best I can."
"Me and ‘Maio’ talk a lot to one another but we don’t talk much about ambitions. As personalities we have big goals and ambitions and we get along really well, we have done from day one. He just knows how I think and knows that I don’t like to talk a lot about the little things.
"When I’m in the garage he’s very good at being able to read what I’m thinking and what I need. We have a very good bond. It was a big deal for me coming over to Europe for my first year (in Superbikes in 2009) and he took such good care of me. We obviously won the title together but he was also a really good friend too. We were also able to put that aside and work very well as a team, and he runs a very good programme. He listens to what I need and I can’t wait to work with him again."
Spies then discussed the Sepang tests next week.
Ben Spies says: "We will obviously have to look at some stuff Yamaha will have for the bike, and for me it’s more about going there to ride, getting the bike moving in the right direction, working as a team, and then going back for the second Test and really treating it very methodically.
"We always want to go fast and make improvements, but what position we’re in or how fast we go is not the goal. I just need to get comfortable on the bike again and we need to understand how the team works together."
Teammate Jorge Lorenzo tested a new M1 engine at Valencia last November, and when asked what more he feels he requires from the bike Spies responded: "We could see last year we needed a little more straight line speed, that was obvious during the season, but the overall M1 package is fantastic.
"It’s a great balance of a motorcycle that does everything very well, and I think we just need to work on the engine a little bit. Right now I don’t know exactly what will be at the Test, there could be a huge change in the bike and I’m just getting ready to see what will be brought – we’ll see when we get there and then evaluate it."
Spies then discussed his 2011 goals concerning development as a MotoGP rider.
Ben Spies says: "It’s very simple for me. Every year I want to do better than the year before. In 2010 we finished second, third, fourth and fifth, had a pole position (at Indianapolis) and led the race for a little bit. We didn’t do anything crazy but we were very solid, and we didn’t win a race.
"I wasn’t expecting that out of myself, I think maybe some other people were," he commented. "So next year it’s to fight at the front consistently, and to win a race. That is the goal. We finished sixth in the Championship so we want to do better and finish in the top five. You can’t always make huge, huge gains, but if I do better than I did last year there will be a win and we’re going to see the front more often.
"I also have a great team-mate and I’m ready to try and learn from him as well. Jorge is super fast and has a lot of talent. I’m comfortable with my race craft and things like that, I like how I do things in that area, but I’m not scared to say that I need to learn how to go faster and I think he is a very fast guy.
"With other things, from how I train to my approach to races, I don’t like to change because that’s what I’m happy with. But I do have to learn how to go faster on a motorcycle."
Although he is willing to learn from his teammate, the defending champion Lorenzo, Spies still has one ultimate aim: win races.
Ben Spies says: "When the lights go off I want to win the race, as does everybody on the grid. I do want to beat Jorge, he’s the first person you want to beat, but he’s the fastest guy in the world and is an awesome rider. First I need to try and understand why he goes so fast.
"He is a genuine and talented guy and wants to win. There’s nobody else right now that I’d like to be team-mates with more in terms of learning how to go fast on a motorcycle, and I’m very excited about being team-mates with him for next year."