It seems that the odd motorcycle road race gremlin from last year’s World Superbike campaign-where a spectacular result is immediately followed by a DNF-have followed Ben Spies to his MotoGP campaign in 2010. Let’s hope it stops here!
Starting from the eighth grid position, Ben Spies’ Jerez qualifying position was definitely an awesome achievement given that he’d never seen the racetrack before Friday. An excellent start that saw him in sixth after the first few corners had the Spies fans of the world salivating in anticipation.
"After coming here and learning the track really quick I thought we had a really good package for the race" Spies commented later.
Dani Pedrosa had shot into the lead, Fiat Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi was shadowing right behind, and Ducati’s Nicky Hayden was the lead American in an excellent third place. Ben Spies in sixth had made up a couple of positions and was well placed behind Casey Stoner’s Ducati; this was going to be a battle royal and the lanky ‘Texas Terror’ was clearly poised for another strong Moto Grand Prix result… surely?
Alas, it was not to be. Only a few laps into the race and suddenly Spies’ Tech 3 Yamaha started to give up the ghost. He dropped back quickly until, forced into the pits with an obvious mechanical, he gave up the race.
First thoughts were that the Yamaha M1 engine had failed; indeed the world feed commentators even said so at the time. Given Dorna’s swingeing penalties for any rider using more than six engines a year, that would have been a disastrous situation that would have seen Ben Spies playing catch up for the rest of the season.
Ben Spies says: As it turned out it the engine was fine. "It’s just one of those things that can happen but it’s really unfortunate" he said obviously disappointed. "The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team had worked really hard but I just had some problem with the front-end. I’m not sure what the problem is but I’ve looked at the data and you can clearly see I had an issue."
Spies continued: "The bike just wasn’t reacting like it should and it is a big shame. I got a really good start and was right behind Casey but pretty much from the first lap I knew I had a problem. I tried to ride around the problem but at the end of the day I wasn’t going to be scoring any points and I’d have risked crashing if I’d continued."
Herve Poncharal (Tech 3 Yamaha Team Owner) says: "I won’t say it’s a disaster but it certainly is a big disappointment for us. We had high hopes after we saw how quickly Ben mastered the track and it wasn’t unrealistic to hope that he could have been at least in the top five again like in Qatar."
He continued: "He got a good start but after a few laps it was obvious that he couldn’t maintain his pace and he was losing ground. He had to pull into the pits and he said he didn’t have any feeling with the front. We’ll analyze the data and check everything with Bridgestone to see if we can find out exactly what caused the problem. It is a shame for Ben but we have to accept it."
So Ben Spies moves on to Le Mans in three weeks-another racing circuit he’s never seen before. He sits 9th in the World Moto GP Championship tied with Casey Stoner at 11 points, just one point behind his teammate Colin Edwards, 30 behind Valentino Rossi and 34 behind points leader Jorge Lorenzo.
Spies leaves Jerez as the top MotoGP rookie, armed with his indomitable spirit: "The consolation is that I know we had the speed for a good result and there are a lot of positive points to take from the weekend. We can go to Le Mans confident that I’ll be able to show more of my true potential."
Here at Ultimate MotorCycling we’ll certainly be watching with interest.