Q&A: MotoGP Rider Ben Spies
INDIANAPOLIS – Yamaha Factory Racing rider Ben Spies is one of five Americans who will compete in the MotoGP class at the Red Bull Indianapolis GP this weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Spies, 28, from Longview, Texas, is in his third full season in MotoGP. He has recorded two career podium finishes at Indianapolis, placing second in 2010 with Tech 3 Yamaha and third in 2011 with Yamaha Factory Racing. He also won the pole in 2010 at IMS.
Spies was the 2010 MotoGP Rookie of the Year after winning the World Superbike championship in 2009. He won three consecutive AMA Superbike titles in America from 2006-08 before moving to the world stage.
Q: How has your summer break gone? Any time for interesting vacation spots or fun?
BEN SPIES: I have really just been enjoying being back at the house and seeing friends and family and catching up on what I have missed the last few months. I have had a good break so far, and I am ready to get back to racing.
Q: You have won a pole and finished on the podium twice in three career starts at Indy. What about this track suits you riding style or the Yamaha package so well?
SPIES: I think it is a combination, but it also seems to suit my style pretty well. There are a lot of left and right turns where it is pretty physical, and my size helps me out quite a bit. And this year I am looking more forward to it, seeing that Yamaha is a really good bike and we have a lot more power than we have had the last couple of years against the other bikes. We are a lot more competitive and looking forward to a good weekend and trying to get on the podium again.
Q: This season has been a tough one and some weird things have happened: broken sub-frame, broken swingarm, broken helmet visor and food poisoning. Have you ever had a season during your career with so many strange things going on?
SPIES: No. This has definitely been the worst season so far. But it can only go on so long, and we have been putting together some decent results. And when we have been in position, we would have put in some decent results if we hadn’t had failures and basically out of anybody’s control. Out of the tires, we had a broken seat in the first round and then a swingarm that broke and then the visor problem that I had. It is a lot of problems that are no one’s real fault, and it has been a lot of bad luck, and we have also showed good potential, too. So I think when it comes together, we can be right there.
Q: Is it safe to say that you are more relaxed entering Indy than at any race in 2012 because you announced before Laguna that you were leaving Yamaha after this season and because this has been a really good track for you, a good place to turn around your year?
SPIES: I knew before the announcement came out it was a decision that I had made a while ago, and I know change can be good sometimes, and that is what I wanted. I have a few things on the table, but we are waiting to see which is the best option for next year. I wanted to get that out of the way, and I knew I wasn’t going to be staying there next year, and I have had good memories and good races with Yamaha, and it is nothing against them. I just didn’t think that we have been matching very well or working well together, and I want to be in a good environment for everybody, and that is why I made the decision and got it off my chest. Now I don’t have to worry about anything, and I can just go out and get on the bike and ride.
Q: Riders often talk about a boost from racing at home. Do you feel it? Is the sensation even more pronounced at Indy because of the history here?
SPIES: Yes, for sure. Going to Indy, I mean, it’s Indianapolis. It has the bricks and everything, and it has all the history. When you go there and it is your home crowd, you always hope your best race is your home race. Sometimes it is not always like that, but you always want to put it on for the fans. You have the fans, and even though there are so many riders out there and so many other riders that they respect, you want yourself up there the most, and you can feel it, for sure. When you are in practice sessions and you pull off the side to do your practice start and all the fans are just jumping and hollering, it gives you that satisfaction, and you want to come through for them.
Q: It seems that the Yamaha M1 has adjusted to the new Bridgestone tires better than the Honda or the Ducati this season. What about the bike has helped it blend better with the tires than your rivals?
SPIES: That is something that no one really knows because there has been so many changes with the tires this year and the 1000cc’s. It has just been kind of a shot in the dark, and it seems like our bike is more consistent with them. I wouldn’t say it is better, but I would say it is more consistent and it works pretty well. But we have also had our fair share of problems with them, too, and I think everyone has had some trouble.
Q: Do you have a timetable for announcing your 2013 plans?
SPIES: Yes, I know when I will announce something and when I announce it. Everybody will know, and then I am not going to feed any more rumors or get anything started. I am just going to wait on it and keep people wondering a little bit.
Q: You are different than some riders in that you have many outside interests. You own and ride for a pro cycling team. You are an owner of a popular restaurant in Dallas. Did this wider perspective help you feel more comfortable with you decision to leave a factory ride with Yamaha? Your motorcycle racing career is going to continue in 2013, but you also realize there’s more to life than motorcycle racing?
SPIES: Motorcycles aren’t the only thing. That comes in with not just the property that I do. I have a buddy, and we invest and we build houses. I have a couple restaurants now and with the cycling team and trying to get my hand in a couple of other things. But just realizing that due to family and other things like that, racing is my job, but it’s not the first thing, and it is not the most important thing in life. Not many riders realize that until it is almost too late, and they have wasted a lot of what could have been. I have realized that pretty early and taking as much of advantage as I can.