A Blue Providence
by dean adams
Thursday, December 09, 2010

In 2008 Ben Spies rode a Rizla Suzuki at Indy in the rain. Here his longtime mechanic Tom Houseworth looks things over. Many expected Spies to be on the factory Suzuki team in 2009.
image by brian nelson

Everyone expected that Ben Spies would be racing a blue motorcycle in MotoGP one day, just not a dark blue one.

Twenty six months ago, the expectation was that Ben Spies would be racing the light blue Rizla Suzuki MotoGP machine, not the factory Yamaha.

Ben Spies—a rider who at one time never wanted to race in Europe and never wanted to race for any company but Suzuki—will ride for the factory Yamaha MotoGP team in 2011. It's an easy to see where Spies found the inspiration for sticking with Suzuki. His hero and fellow Texan Kevin Schwantz raced just one brand of motorcycle in entire his Superbike and GP career--Suzuki. It culminated with the '93 world championship.

Spies had a long and successful career with Yoshimura Suzuki in the US, winning the Superbike title against possibly the strongest opponent any US rookie has ever faced since Kenny Roberts—Mat Mladin. After establishing himself in 2008 as one of the best riders in the US, Spies was afforded the opportunity to ride the factory Suzuki MotoGP bike at Donington and in both USGP rounds. Spies did well--as a stand in for his childhood hero Loris Capirossi at Donington he finished in the points in a wet race.

While the expectations were that he would be on the factory Suzuki team in 2009, somehow the relationship between Spies and Suzuki's GP team began to cool in late 2008. If he was offered a 2009 ride, he obviously didn't accept it.

Believing that Loris Capirossi would be heathy, Suzuki did not offer the ride to Spies at the next round after Donington--at Assen. Capirossi believed he'd be ready to return for that race, and Suzuki, in turn, believed him. He lasted just a few sessions on the bike before crashing out and having the Suzuki's steel footpeg use the Italian's arm as a leather and human flesh kabob. Spies, at Assen ostensibly to talk to interested parties about a 2009 MotoGP ride, was then offered Capirossi's seat for the race. He deferred, saying that he didn't relish trying to play catch-up at a track he'd never ridden before. The American would have had just one session at Assen before having to race the Suzuki.

Very little should ever come under the heading of "Too Preposterous To Be Believed" in the eat-your-own-children MotoGP paddock. However, now, it seems clear that in 2008, Suzuki MotoGP didn't really rate 2010 MotoGP Rookie of the Year, pole-sitter and podium finisher Ben Spies very highly. Miffed by Spies not wanting to stick his hand in the table saw when their Capirossi plans fell apart at Assen, Suzuki's talks with Spies vaporized.

Spies, with urging from World Superbike's ownership, was instead hired by Yamaha World Superbike for 2009. This set him on his current career path.

Now that he has a contract to ride for the most dominant MotoGP team and manufacturer—Yamaha, one might wonder how Spies feels about the Suzuki slight. While those around him might not be ready to forgive and forget "the Suzuki situation", Spies doesn't seem to harbor any great ill will towards the Suzuki GP team.

"I love being with Yamaha, and I want to stay with Yamaha until I'm done." -- Ben Spies
"Seeing the way the Suzuki team has struggled, there's a combination of gratification and disappointment," he said this week. "A lot of disappointment, for me, because I'd been with Suzuki since I was 15 years old. As long as I do my results for Yamaha, as long as they pay me like I feel they should pay me, I will stay with Yamaha until I quit. There might be a year where the bike's no good. But that happens. That happens with every manufacturer. I like things to be good, make better, go through the low times, build it back up better. Stay together and work as a team. With Suzuki, there were so many different things that went on. I wanted to stay with them. They had me, I won three AMA titles for them and I was the candidate to come to MotoGP."

Spies continued: "There were a lot of (politics). It should be Kevin Schwantz running the Suzuki MotoGP team right now, and I should be riding for them. Things didn't happen that way, and I'm completely happy, now, that that didn't happen. I love being with Yamaha, and I want to stay with Yamaha until I'm done. But I think there were some very bad decisions made ... not just from a rider's standpoint, from a team standpoint. I think the Suzuki team has a lot of potential. It has a lot of great mechanics. Alvaro Bautista is a very good rider. But for the last couple of years, the results haven't been there, and that's the worry for the team. I don't think it's been all about the racing."

"I think things could've been a whole lot different, and a lot better for them, a couple of years ago," Spies continued. "But things happen. I've made bad decisions in the past, for sure. I like to think I've made more good decisions than bad ones, but it's just one of those things. It's happened with a lot of teams that lose riders. It happens in every sport, every business. But with me personally, I wanted to stay with Suzuki until I was done. I think Kevin was in a position to come in and do a great job and run the team. But it didn't work out that way. And we moved to Yamaha, I helped them win their first World Superbike title. They gave me a chance, I paid them back, and everybody is really happy. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else right now.

"The way things have turned out is awesome for me and Yamaha. We'll never know how it might have gone if I'd been on a Suzuki. You do the best you can with what you've got, and that's all we've done the last couple of years."


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