In the following interview, moto-journalist Leandra Graves catches up with Yamaha Factory Racing MotoGP’s Ben Spies in Barcelona ahead of Catalunya qualifying to discuss his thought’s on this weekend’s race in Spain, plus his thoughts on Marco Simoncelli and his relationship with teammate Lorenzo.
It has been a difficult first four rounds of the MotoGP 2011 season for Yamaha Factory Racing’s Ben Spies.
The Texan currently lies in 12th in the 2011 MotoGP standings and after such a strong rookie year in 2010, many predicted the 26 year old would be a serious contender for the championship and be hot competition to his team mate Jorge Lorenzo.
With two sixth places under his belt, he’s also had two crashes. One at the wet race in Jerez when in second place with 3 laps to go and one where a tool was left on his bike on the grid in Estoril which affected his braking, causing an abrupt and very unfortunate end to his race.
Friday was a positive start for the Yamaha rider finishing in the top five in both sessions, as well posting the fourth fastest time in Saturday’s final practice. The Circuit de Catalunya is one Spies openly admits to liking and he secured a sixth place finish here in last year’s campaign.
Ben Spies says: "It was a good session for us, I am feeling positive as it was tough with the changeable conditions. We made changes with my position on the bike and I think we have that sorted now. I am hoping to score some solid points here and make sure I qualify well.
"My target is to win a race this year. That’s my aim and that’s the one thing we haven’t been able to do yet. We are concentrating so much on next year’s 1000c bike and hoping it will work much better than this year’s. It’s really hard when you look at the Honda’s and how well they are performing. I mean Lorenzo is the World Champion and when he gets onto the rostrum, it’s like a win for him and he’s physically drained. It’s hard when you know you can at best really only fight for rostrums.
"We haven’t been as bad as things look this year. We have had a lot of bad luck and I’m devastated I lost the team the one-two finish in Jerez. I am really happy I picked up points in LeMans as that’s given me my confidence back and I can build on that this weekend. We know what work we need to do with the Yamaha and I think this really is the start of the season where I can turn things around. The forecasts predict rain this weekend but I don’t stress about that. There is nothing I can do about it and earlier in my career I would worry about things like that. Now I just get on and ride the conditions and give it my best.
The talk in the paddock has all been about Marco Simoncelli after several riders have complained about his "aggressive" riding style. The Italian was punished at the previous round in France after an incident with Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa who is ruled out of this race with a broken collarbone, following the crash. Does Ben agree with riders like Lorenzo who have complained about his "dangerous" manoeuvrings?
Ben Spies says: "I don’t want to say too much on Simoncelli, as he’s had his sentence. When I ride against him, I am more wary than I am with some other riders. He’s not scared though, he’s a racer and very quick, you have to give him that. He will learn."
This is the first season for Spies in the full factory Yamaha team, alongside the world number one, Lorenzo. In house politics between Valentino Rossi and the Spaniard in the previous two year’s, appeared to divide the team (literally with a wall) and there was a clear friction between the two talents.
Ben Spies says: "I have no problem with Lorenzo. We have a good relationship. If I’m faster than him, he is still fine with me, he still talks to me and everything is ok. I mean Rossi can end people’s career, but I like Jorge and enjoy working with him."
Switching to the World Superbike series, Spies admits he keenly follows the racing as much as he can on TV and he’s tipping championship leader Carlos Checa to go all the way and clinch his first title.
Ben Spies says: "I hope Checa wins the title, I think he will. If you had asked me at the start of the year I would have said Max Biaggi would have been favourite, especially on that Aprillian, but Checa has been so consistent. He has performed so well on circuits that I didn’t feel would be that good for him. I knew Checa was going to dominate in Miller, I saw how well he could ride there when I have won there back in my World Superbike days."
2010 saw Yamaha Tech 3 team mates Colin Edwards and Spies, challenge each other to a bet of taking tequila shots if they were beaten by Simoncelli.
Ben Spies says: "Me and Colin decided to put our tequila bet on hold after we saw the performances of Simoncelli in the races and testing. Maybe we will find a different rider to have the bet with," he admitted laughing.