After competing in only the ninth race of his MotoGP career (including four Wildcard entries), Ben Spies piloted his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 M1 to a podium finish at Silverstone this weekend.
The reigning World Superbike Champion’s third-place finish, his first-ever podium in the premier class, was preceded with his best qualifying position of the 2010 MotoGP season, seventh.
Ben Spies says: “I was on the edge but I had to go for the podium and it worked out. It will be hard to duplicate this but right now I’ll let it sink in and make the most of it. But on this day I can say I was the third best rider in the world and it is a good feeling.”
Besides riding in typical Texas Tornado style, the 15-rider field, short due to Valentino Rossi and Hiroshi Aoyama not starting (Rossi hurt at Mugello, Aoyama in Sunday’s warm-up session), was all inexperienced at the Silverstone circuit, which didn’t host a MotoGP race since 1986. This created a level playing field, and based on Spies’ 2009 WSBK wins, he seems to learn new circuits better than most riders.
Although the 25-year-old showcased his talent for learning new circuits to the premier motorcycle racing class, Spies fought extremely hard for that last podium position. Starting from seventh, Spies was soon battling for sixth with the other rookie this season, San Carlo Honda Gresini rider and 2008 250cc Champion Marco Simoncelli.
After overtaking Simoncelli, Spies passed Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa on lap 9 for fifth position. Spies kept a consistent rhythm as race-winner Jorge Lorenzo was trailed by three others battling for second, Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso, LCR Honda’s Randy de Puniet and Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden.
Hayden got passed De Puniet with 16 laps to go, and then Spies moved pass the Frenchman on the following the following lap. Battling through discomfort from a fracture in his left ankle that he aggravated during a qualifying crash on Saturday, Spies again kept a steady rhythm with Hayden in site. Spies finally made his move on his fellow American rider during the final lap, passing Hayden on the fast Abbey Corner, remaining in third until the checkered flag.
Ben Spies says: “Once I realized I could stay in contention I just tried to save the rear tire as much as I could and it all worked out. The last few laps I pushed as hard as I could and made some good passes and it is great for Yamaha and the Monster Tech 3 Team. I’m also pretty happy about it too and this is good for my confidence.”
“That last lap was difficult to pass Nicky but I got a really good drive onto the back straight and tried to pass him at Stowe Corner but he came back by. On the next straight I managed to get by him and then had to ride quite defensively on the last part of the lap.”
After taking his first podium in MotoGP, Spies moved from 10th to seventh in the championship, adding 16 points for a total of 36 points. And Spies may have an edge at his home-country races in Laguna Seca and Indianapolis, considering he finished eight at Laguna and sixth at Indy while competing as a Wildcard for Rizla Suzuki in 2008.
With only five rounds of 18 down, much time remains for garnishing some points. It’s up to Spies to keep rhythm, and the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team to maintain a good set-up on the M1.
Herve Poncharal, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha Team Manager, says: “We knew Ben really liked this circuit and we thought he could do a good race. But he rode an incredible race because he didn’t get a fantastic start but he was very aggressive in the first two laps and got himself into contention.”
“He never let that group in front of him go away and we know his strength is on worn tires, so we expected him to hang in until the end. He was quickest on track at one stage but I was worried a little bit because Casey was catching quite quickly. But he kept his cool and made some good passes and the best was on the last lap to beat Nicky. It his first podium in MotoGP and certainly not his last because he is such a bright talent for the future.”