Indy MotoGP Interview
Welcome, everyone to this Red Bull Indianapolis GP teleconference with American MotoGP stars Colin Edwards and Ben Spies as our guests today. A little bit of background on Colin and Ben. Colin is from Houston, he’s in his ninth season in MotoGP and finished fifth in the MotoGP World Championship standings last season. It was the best performance by a rider not on a factory team.
Colin won the Superbike World Championship in 2000 and 2002 before climbing to MotoGP in 2003. Ben is from Longview, Texas. He will make his full-time MotoGP debut this season after winning the Superbike World Championship in 2009 as a rookie. And he came to Superbikes after winning three consecutive AMA Superbike titles from 2006 to 2008.
Both Colin and Ben this season will ride for the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team – we like to call them Tex 3, because it’s Team Texas for both of these guys – and the season starts April 10 with the Grand Prix of Qatar and also includes the third annual Red Bull Indianapolis GP Aug. 27-29 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We’re really excited to have both guys on today. Colin, Ben, thanks for joining us.
BEN SPIES: Thank you.
COLIN EDWARDS: What’s up, man? I couldn’t wait.
HOST: Colin, going into this season, how do you think team Tech 3 is set up? What’s it looking like?
EDWARDS: I think we’re looking good. Ben and I have been friends for a while. I actually sent him a text at the end of last year saying like, "Wait, maybe don’t come this year." We had some engine issues going on last year with a bit of a horsepower deficit. But really surprised this year. Yamaha has come up with good stuff. The bike is running really well. Chassis are working good. So testing has been really good, so I’m really looking forward to it.
HOST: Ben, you’ve had a strong preseason of testing. What’s been the most surprising thing for you in your transition from MotoGP to World Superbike? Not necessarily the most challenging thing, but the thing that’s caused you to stand back and say, "Whoa, I didn’t expect that?"
SPIES: Not a whole lot of things. The overall speed of the guys is obviously another level. They’re just flat-out faster guys. And trying to work with that, trying to push myself to new limits. Just the way the bike works, the way the tires work, the amount of grip the tires do have. There’s just a lot of learning curves. But I wouldn’t say there was one thing that just jumped out that was a big surprise. But there were a lot of changes. As I said, it was just faster guys and different machinery. It’s been one big kind of learning curve, for sure.
CHRIS JONNUM: I did want to know how you guys enjoyed doing that little film ("Mancation") for Yamaha and if that was something you enjoyed, and if you would do something like that again.
EDWARDS: You first, Ben. Fire away.
SPIES: Yeah, it was good. I’m definitely not the loudest personality in the paddock, and I have a little trouble throwing on the game face for the acting. Colin, on the other hand, I think he needs to, when he’s done racing, go into acting because he’s definitely into it and pretty good at it. It was fun. We went out there and crammed it all into a day and had one little incident that was pretty funny and got to spend some time and have some good laughs. So overall, it was good.
EDWARDS: My turn? Yeah, it was good. It was fun. We had an absolute ball with it. None of us knew what was going on until we showed up and they said, "OK, Colin, you’re the over-the-top, annoying, loud guy. I was like, "OK, I’ll give it my best." It turned out all right. We had a good time with it.
JONNUM: What are your thoughts on the relatively late start this season in combination with the lack of testing? Do you feel particularly eager to get the season started, and how prepared are you?
SPIES: I’m excited. It’s definitely been a long, long break from racing. The testing, OK, we don’t have a lot of testing, and being a rookie it’s hard. But it is what it is, and I’m ready to get to the track and race. I’m a little ahead of where I thought I was going to be entering the year, and I think we’re in a good position to keep learning and keep moving up. But we also have some big new challenges ahead of us going to some new tracks and not knowing, and just the combination of riding with these guys. But it’s been good. Colin’s been a super-big help. I think this year is going to go really good. We’re definitely competitors. We want to beat each other. We want to beat everybody out there, but I think we both understand racing against the guys we’re racing against, if we can work with each other a little bit to make the bike a little bit better, even though we’re racing against each other in the meantime, if it’s racing fourth and fifth and sixth and making the bike better, it’s better than racing ninth and 10th and holding information from each other. So I think we’re going to be good with sharing information trying to make the overall package better and dukeing it out on the track. Again, we want to beat each other as bad as anybody else, and I think that’s going to help me, at least with the lack of testing time I’ve had.
EDWARDS: Yeah, as far as me, I was ready to go racing back in January. I didn’t want any testing time. I’ve been on this bike for I don’t know how long. The new guys coming up, with Ben and Simoncelli and Bautista, I don’t know if it hindered, but definitely didn’t get all the time we normally got. But at the end of the day, Ben made, he’s surprised everybody and learned pretty quick. I don’t think it’s hurt him too bad. And you know, let’s just go racing. I’m ready. The testing is testing, and the racing is when you’ve got to lay your balls on the chopping block.
LARRY LAWRENCE: How close will your machine be to the factory Yamahas that Rossi and Lorenzo will be racing.
EDWARDS: Hey, Larry, how’s it going? Yeah, that’s a good question. Basically, this year probably would be the closest they’ve ever been. You know, being with those guys on track, but not just them, but getting behind Pedrosa or Stoner, getting behind some of the other guys, as well, I’m not saying the bikes are exactly the same. But I think they’re a lot closer than they’ve ever been. That’s about all we can really ask for, being a sister team. When you look at the speed charts, we’re right there. Everybody’s running good. I think all 18 bikes are running within 4K (km/h) or something like that. I think it’s a good thing. The six engines all year, I think it’s evened out the amount of power you can actually put out and keep the thing together. So I think everybody’s just scrunched up a little bit more.
LAWRENCE: I understand this may be the last year of the 800cc formula before they move to a new formula with 1000cc. Maybe both of you can touch on what your feelings are moving to the 1000s and if you feel it’s a positive thing.
SPIES: I think for me and Colin, for numerous reasons, being size, a Superbike background, probably I think our more natural tendency is to ride a bike, 1000 is better overall for us. I think for the fan base it creates better racing. With the 800s, it’s just a completely different style. When you pass people, if you want to keep the flow of racing fast and keep the lap time up, you really have to set up passes a long time in advance. It’s almost like a slingshot pass. When you’re on a 1000, you can almost get in there, brake deep, stop it, fire it out. You’ve got all the sliding, the bucking, more torque. I just think it creates better racing just to watch the riders. It also makes passing opportunities, easier passes to happen more places around the track. And I think that creates better racing, for sure. I’m looking forward to it. I’m hoping everything keeps going through and that’s what happens, and not just because I think it’s better for me, but I think it’s better, just in general. It’s MotoGP; it needs to be 1000cc. And I think the racing will get better, for sure.
EDWARDS: I still remember the days when we didn’t have any traction control and it was all in your wrist and your butt and what you felt. And not a day went by when you didn’t ask for more power, more power. So I’m just going to go back to that. Especially if they’re talking about taking away the electronics, we have to go to 1000. I don’t see any way of riding these 800s, with the amount of corner speed we’re carrying and the actual power they deliver, without electronics these things would be quite violent. Go back to 1000s, get more of the old-school sliding, smoke coming off the tire, and have a little bit of fun with it. For me, I think it’s the right move.
LAWRENCE: Any particular races or events you’re looking forward to this year?
SPIES: There’s a lot of tracks I’m looking forward to that I haven’t been to. Japan is one of them. Just a different place. Even though I’ve raced at Laguna many times and raced at Indy once, it’s always good to race in front of your home crowd. Now I’ve actually felt that racing in a European series, come back to when it was Miller. It wasn’t as big of a crowd as when you’d go to Spain, but when you got the home boys rooting you on, it’s a good feeling. And it’s a different feeling. And Laguna Seca for me, it’s always been a pretty good track for me. You’ve got to pick and choose when you really go hard, and there are some weeks where you don’t have that pace and you’re searching, and you’ve still got to ride your butt off. You hope everything is a little bit easier when you get to the home races, and it’s going to be one of those tracks where we’ve got decent pace. And if we do, then you pull the pin and lay it all down and try to represent for your home country. In saying that, all the top eight riders in the championship do that every weekend, too, but you always have that little bit more motivation when you’ve got your fans cheering you on. So I’m looking forward to Laguna, for sure.
EDWARDS: Myself, I’m looking forward to Donington. Oh, wait: We ain’t going to Donington (laughter). Honestly, you know it will be Laguna and Indy. Let’s say future-cast that you’re building up momentum to or probably have in the back of your head. But like Ben said, every weekend we show up, and we show up and run the Super Bowl. A lot of these countries only have one Grand Prix, and that’s the way it goes. So you’ve got to get geared up week in and week out. Laguna and Indy, they’re home races, they’re a bit special, to answer that question.
TOBY MOODY: (First part of question cut off due to transmission problem) … you’ve only had six days of testing this winter. Is there much crossover between the two of you, the other side of the garage? Are you pretty free-flowing with information, Colin, toward Ben?
EDWARDS: Absolutely. I can remember conversations we’ve had about braking styles and what we do differently maybe on a Grand Prix bike compared to a Superbike, and why I think Valentino is what he is and what he does differently on a bike. We talk about this stuff, just to throw it out there. You know, throw it against the wall, and whatever sticks, sticks, and what doesn’t, doesn’t. Just trying to help him out any way I possibly can.
SPIES: It’s the same for me. I honestly don’t have nearly as much data logged in my head from the GP side of things. And it might be a good thing that I don’t have some of that stuff lingering in the back of my head and everything I learn is kind of new stuff. It might not always be the right thing. But it’s a different opinion sometimes. Maybe some of it’s right; maybe some of it’s wrong. My whole feel is I’d much rather work close with somebody and try to make the package three-tenths a lap, four-tenths a lap quicker a lap and if I just got to worry about beating … even if that helps him or if it helps me, and we’re trying to fend off on each other, if that moves us up four positions compared to everybody else, than that’s a big deal. So I’m not afraid to talk about it. You’ve still got to twist your wrist when it comes to Sunday, anyways, so the guy that’s supposed to beat each other is going to win, and that’s just how it is. But I’m definitely not afraid to share information and try to make the bike better and things like that. So I think we’re pretty open about that. But when Sunday comes, we go for it. That’s how racing is. I think it will be good.
DAVID EMMETT: I’d like to start on tires. When we spoke at Valencia, you said the biggest change was getting used to the Bridgestones. Do you feel you’re any closer to understanding the Bridgestones, and can you talk about the Bridgestones that you were riding and the Pirellis you were using in Superbikes?
SPIES: The biggest difference is that Bridgestones have a lot of grip, and the warming procedures are just different between the two tires and something you have to get used to. I think I’m getting closer to the limits of the tires. Definitely not there yet, because we’re not quickest. So there’s definitely more time in it. Whether I can get to that limit or not, that’s the question. But there’s definitely more in it. But I feel like we’re getting closer. The way the tires react, once they lose the grip, I feel pretty good. After 10 or 15 laps, I feel like we’re getting more out of the tire. When the tire comes from the warm-up procedure and it gets to maximum temp and the grip is at the max level, I don’t think I’m at that limit yet. I don’t think I’ve found that. But once it makes a drop, I think I’m better on. But that’s just still learning, and it’s going to take more time. That’s the biggest difference with the tires. Now I don’t think I have figured them out completely. It might take a little bit. Once we do figure it out, it’s how fast can I go on them?
EMMETT: This is your first night race at Qatar.
EMMETT: How did you find the test that you did three weeks ago?
SPIES: It was OK. It was definitely different. It took me definitely a couple of hours to get use to the lights. The speed perception is definitely a little bit quicker than the day just because of the shadows. When you go through the turns, you definitely feel like you’re going a bit faster than during the day. It is a little bit different, but it’s not a mind-blowing experience. And it’s nothing that if it was during the day I could do this much better or whatever. It’s just different. It’s just like riding in the rain: It’s the same for everybody. I’m looking forward to it. It’s just cool; it’s different. I’ll definitely be more comfortable. I won’t waste as much time during the race weekend as I would have if I had never ridden in it. Glad we got to test in it, and I think it’s going to be good, and I’m looking forward to it.
EMMETT: Both of you crashed around 11 p.m. in the Qatar test, and Nicky went down during the test. Valentino asked for the race to be moved forward, for the race to be raced earlier a couple of hours. Do you think that’s a good idea?
EDWARDS: Usually Valentino gets what he asks for (laughter). I don’t know. That particular night, the humidity, the temperature, something was just perfect at the moment that the Bridgestone front did not like. There were five of us that went down within 30 minutes at the exact same corner. They asked me at the track, "Is there moisture coming through the ground?" I was like: "Dude, we’re in the desert. How is moisture coming through the ground?" So I don’t know what it was. We looked at the tires after; that left front didn’t look like it was working in that temperature, humidity, whatever it might have been. Although after that, it seemed to work OK. So I don’t know. A little bit of a Twilight Zone thing was going on there in that particular 30 minutes. But we’re moving forward, moving forward. At the end of the day, we’re all going to be riding the same thing, and I probably won’t be racing that tire, anyways, so I’m not worried about it.
EMMETT: Would you rather race during the day or at night, Colin?
EDWARDS: I’m the guy who wears a dark shield in the rain, so the worse I see, the better I ride. We could turn half the lights off, and it would be better that way. But I like the night race. I grew up racing Friday night motocross races under the lights every Friday night. And I was faster than when I couldn’t see the ruts. So night racing, no problem. I enjoy it.
EMMETT: The history of people coming up to MotoGP from Superbikes has not been what people have expected, certainly in the early years. Colin, you’re the one person who has stuck it out and been successful. Ben looks perhaps like the first rider to be really successful after you, Colin. How have you managed to stick around, Colin? Have you had to change your style? Ben, can you talk about the way that you’re adapting?
EDWARDS: I think there’s one common factor here: We’re both from Texas. It must be something in the water down here. Obviously, when I came over in Grand Prix, what’s really hard is to come over … riding two black, hard round wheels on a motorcycle; it looks just like our Superbikes do. It’s a real hard pill to swallow, to say: "You know, I’m World Champion. I beat all these guys, and you come over here and it’s like, "Whoa, you’ve got to figure out how to ride this bike differently." I would say my first year, maybe halfway through my second year, I was a little bit stubborn about changing some of my style because what worked on a Superbike, I thought was going to work. Well, it didn’t. These things like a lot of momentum, a lot of load, a lot of even load, front and rear. Once you figure that out and get rid of some old habits, but it’s hard to get rid of those old habits. That’s where Ben is going to excel. Even though he had three years back here and a year on Superbikes in the world stuff, I think he’s crossed over quick enough, he’s still young enough to adapt a lot faster. You know that saying, "You can’t teach an old dog new tricks," that’s a saying for a reason. It was hard there in the beginning, but once you kind of get your head around it, you do have to adapt, you do have to do some different things. Then it becomes pretty easy. You just swallow your pride and start learning again.
SPIES: For me, I’m trying everything I can to be as fast as I can and be as close as I can and beat everybody else. And I think one thing that has helped me is when I came over, after riding the bike at Valencia and the Valencia test, I really kind of sat down and said what I think and what I thought I knew and do know how to go fast on a Superbike, it’s not the same. Until you ride a GP bike to a certain level and see what those guys are doing on it, you realize you can’t do what you want to do like you do on a Superbike and make it go fast. I don’t know how far I’m going to go and how the differences that are going to happen from now until three races in or after the season, or if there are going to be any more improvements. I have no clue. But I think at least what has helped me in my transition so far is that I came in and said I know I need to change, I know this isn’t going to work, and I’ve got to figure out how to make it work. So I kind of just cleared the chalkboard coming in. And the credentials I’ve had, I’m trying to not just forget about, but trying to be open-minded to new things. There are so many times I go through a section of corners and my lap time is minus point-two, and it felt the slowest thing through there, and the next lap I try to rip it through there, and I’m plus-two. There are just different things that are better on the overall lap time and not just for one turn. So it’s hard, that’s where I think, at least for me, it made it a little bit smoother knowing that I’ve seen so many people not change stuff, and it’s hurt them. I think you’ve got to be pretty open-minded to make the jump.
EMMETT: You’ve basically swapped with James Toseland. Have you spoken to him about the M1, and have you spoken to him about the R1?
SPIES: No. I haven’t talked. I saw him at the last Portugal race before he tested for the first time, and that was pretty much it.
DEAN ADAMS: Greetings, fellow Americans. Colin, I see on the invitation to this fine teleconference that you are 36 years old. 36.
EDWARDS: Dude, I’m getting old.
ADAMS: I’m not going to bring up how you promised your father and I that you were going to retire at 30, and I’m not going to bring up when you later changed it to 32, but I’m just curious, the number 36, how do you look at your age, or do you not ponder it?
EDWARDS: Well, dude, I’ve got a few more mouths to feed than when I was 30. College tuition, you know, frickin’ Cocoa Krispies to have in the pantry. I’ve got to buy all of this crap now, so I’ve got to keep racing.
SPIES: Forty-two percent tax bracket.
EDWARDS: Yeah, exactly. I think whenever I made that decision, man, that was back in the 500 days. Guys were getting snapped in half, left and right. Careers were quite a bit shorter than they are now. Now we’ve got the luxuries of traction control and these awesome Bridgestone tires and great bikes that Yamaha is building. We’ve got all these luxuries that seem to be more rider-friendly, let’s say. So I think it’s done nothing but extend the life of a rider. But at the same time, man, I had one of my best seasons at 35. I still feel motivated. I’m still just as eager to get on a race bike. On the other hand, if I stayed here 24 hours a day, my wife probably would kick me out, so I’ve got to come up with something to do.
MATTHEW MILES: Colin, what’s your view on the new M1 engine spec?
EDWARDS: We’ve just got a lot more bottom end. Last year, we were struggling so bad with just having a little bit of pop off the corner. Well, basically we didn’t have any. Your line was so critical, trying to keep the RPM up, trying to keep it in the power. We had to play a lot with gearing just to get the RPM where we wanted it. But then again, once tires started going off, you started having to run some crazy lines just to try to keep it in the power. Whereas now, I think it was the first time I’ve been on the Yamaha 800 that you can actually make a little mistake, you can run it in a little bit deep, you can square a corner off here and there. We’ve got that bottom end to help us out. To me, that’s the biggest difference. Chassis feels very much the same. Everything else feels pretty much identical to what it was last year. We’ve got a lot more bottom end. And that transfers into the top, the top end, we’re getting to it much quicker and we’re running out of it better.
MILES: Have you lost any top end?
EDWARDS: No, I don’t think we’ve lost any top end. I think we’re the same. We’ve only been to Malaysia and Qatar, but I think it’s roughly about the same, maybe a little better. But we definitely haven’t lost any.
MILES: Do you think six engines are realistic for the entire season? Are you going to have to give up anything in practice, for example, to make those limits?
EDWARDS: Can I answer that in November? (laughter) I know what we’ve been running. I know how we’ve been running the bike. Yamaha, they don’t mess around and run the bike weak and turn it up for a race or turn it up for practice or turn it down for a race, or whatever. They pretty much test what a race setting is going to be. They want as much information as they can get, and we haven’t had any problems. Knock on wood. I think six engines, we can do it. Yes, are we going to have to shuffle around a bit and play with which engines get what time. Sure, we’re going to have to. I think everybody is going to have to do that. But I think we’ll manage.
MILES: Ben, is the bike you’re riding significantly different from the bike you rode at Valencia?
SPIES: Yeah, the same thing Colin said. The bottom end is definitely an improvement. The chassis wasn’t a problem there. I don’t have a whole lot of time on the bike, but the bottom end was a huge, huge difference. And overall, I think the package is just much better.
MILES: Regarding your cycling, are you racing Cat I yet?
SPIES: Yeah, actually I’m a II now, so I’m racing with the I’s and II’s. Had a race last week and got 15th. I was pretty happy with that. I was actually like sixth with a K to go, and we led out my sprinters, and that was pretty fun. It’s amazing. You start riding with some better guys, and it’s like anything: You ride with better guys, and it picks your game up. You always want to be better and kind of make that next jump. So I’m definitely suffering a little bit more than I used to.
MILES: Are you going to do any races outside of Texas?
SPIES: Yeah, I want to do a couple of Grand Fondas this year in Italy just for fun. Get some guys over from Texas and have some fun. But it’s one of those things, genetically and all that, how I’m built. I’m no Tour de France guy or anything like that, but I have fun with it and am realistic with it. So it’s a good time.
TOBY MOODY: Question for Colin. We covered the six engines for the whole season. It’s about three races per engine. How different does the 2010 engine feel compared with a wide-open engine from a couple of years ago. What is that type of difference?
EDWARDS: Are we comparing this engine to a 990?
MOODY: No, to the very first 800s.
EDWARDS: Oh, gosh, the very first 800, that thing felt like it was about to drop a big-end bearing. Everywhere you went, you shut the throttle off. That was one of the first things, going from the 990 to the 800, you shut the throttle, and it was just lock-up and felt like it wanted to lock up all the time. Not as much inertia, rotating mass. It just felt strange. To get back to the point, this engine, yeah, it feels a lot better. It definitely feels … We’ve got fuel down, as well, from the first time we started 800s. It’s credit to the guys who are doing all the wizardry back at Yamaha. They’ve got this running strong, and we don’t have any fuel consumption problems. Yeah, we are left with very minimal fuel at the end of a race, but it’s definitely breathing, it’s definitely running a lot better than that first 800.
CHRIS JONNUM: Both of you came to the class through World Superbike, and most of the rest of the grid is coming through 125s and 250s. This year we’ve got a new class of Moto2, taking the place of 250s. What are your thoughts on the class and how good of a preparation it’s going to be for the premier class?
EDWARDS: Man, I’m excited about it, to be honest with you. You’ve got a bunch of kids that have been bred on two-strokes pretty much their entire lives, pocket bikes, 125s. And then you just throw a wrench and say this is what you have to ride now. I think, looking at the testing results, we’re already kind of seeing some guys that have adapted to the four-stroke and some that haven’t yet. So it’s going to be interesting. I’ve always enjoyed the 250 race. Whereas now, I’ll say the Moto2, and I think it’s going to be that much more enjoyment for the weekend, seeing who can crack that nut.
SPIES: I’m looking forward to it. Same thing. It’s always good watching a 250 race. There’s always a whole bunch of jumping off the couch and yelling and can’t believe those guys are doing what they’re doing, but also believe the change is going to be good. I really don’t know what to think of it. We really haven’t got to see those bikes in person go, but it’s going to be interesting. It’s a change that’s needed. We’ll see how it works out. It’s hard for me to say anything because I really don’t know much about them and haven’t got to see them in person yet.
DEAN ADAMS: Colin, any sense of the workload behind the scenes by Yamaha to prepare for the new six-engine rule? It’s got to be an enormous effort for a reduction in engine numbers like that.
EDWARDS: It’s strange, because I know how many engines I ran last year. I know how many engines it takes to get through a season under normal circumstances. Not that we’re completely killing an engine, but pieces have to be replaced and made new again. You don’t just throw the whole engine. But at the end of the day, to have six, let’s say, sealed engines, man, that’s enormous amount of development goes into materials, all the dyno time they had to spend. I was talking with a few of the big wigs at Malaysia and asked them how was the vacation, and they just looked at me like I was stupid. They haven’t had any vacation. They’ve been working hard. I think the spec that we’re running, they’ve obviously been thinking about it for a while. It wasn’t all done in the winter. We had this rule, was it the middle of last year. They’ve had plenty of time to get it going. Is it going to work? I don’t know. I think Yamaha is going to look awesome. You look at some of the other factories and what they’re running, I don’t know. We’ll just have to wait until November and see who needs to use more than six engines.
DAVID EMMETT: Colin, one more question for you. We’ve been talking about the engines, and you said the engine spec is a lot more closer now than perhaps it’s ever been. We haven’t seen a satellite rider win since Toni Elias in Portugal in 2006. Do you think it could happen this year?
EDWARDS: Absolutely. You’ve got, I would say the top four guys, but Pedrosa hasn’t done a damn thing in the last couple of tests. You’ve got the top three guys. It’s going to be difficult; I ain’t going to lie to you. Anybody that’s going to bet against Valentino’s got their head screwed on wrong. But it’s definitely a possibility. Like I said, this is the closest our bikes have ever been to factory spec, so if there was ever a year it was going to flat-out happen, this is definitely one of those years.
EMMETT: Is it going to be you or Ben?
EDWARDS: I don’t know, man. I would love to say it’s going to be me. But if Ben does it, I’m not going to be disappointed.
SPIES: I think we’ll be having a beer with each other, whoever does it, that’s for sure. (laughter).
HOST: With that, we will conclude the teleconference. Colin, Ben, thanks so much for giving us 45 minutes of your time, and we wish both the best of luck in Qatar. And we look forward to seeing in August at Indy.