American Ben Spies shock announcement that he will leave the factory Yamaha team at the end of the 2012 season has mouths chattering globally. Fans want to know why Spies has decided to leave Yamaha, and what he will do in 2013, where he will race.
But will he race at all?
Spies isn't doing any talking on either subject but some who know him speculate that he may not ride at all in 2013, or perhaps ever again after the 2012 season.
The off-season for Ben Spies has always been one where he's made an easy break with motorcycle racing. Incredibly, for the past two years Spies has not ridden a motorcycle from the final race at Valencia until the first pre-season test and Grand Prix. Not a dirt bike, an XR100, not an afternoon on a streetbike, nothing. Before the 2011 GP season Spies had not ridden a motorcycle in months, but after wheelying a scooter in the paddock at the first GP at Qatar he said he "had gotten my skills back".
Spies has a variety of other interests outside of racing, including bicycle racing, ownership of several restaurants and ownership of a bicycle racing team.
Uncharacteristically, Spies has voiced some disenchantment with MotoGP racing in 2012--especially regarding the Rookie Rule in MotoGP being erased so that Marc Marquez could move directly to a factory MotoGP ride in his first season in the class.
Spies also showed a great deal of support for his friend Casey Stoner when Stoner announced his retirement earlier in the season. Afterward, when asked if he could believe it, that Stoner had decided to retire, Spies answered, "Yeah, I can believe it," acting as if it was the dumbest question he'd ever heard.
For race historians, the Spies situation feels slightly like the decision GP racer Graeme Crosby made in the early 1980s. A very capable and versatile racer, "Croz" had won the Australian Superbike title, the Suzuka 8 hours, the Daytona 200 and even the Isle of Mann TT before joining Giacomo Agostini's Yamaha GP team in 1982.
Crosby struggled with injuries in '82, but still finished second in the all-important 500cc world championship. However, by the time the season ended, "Croz" had endured a belly full of "political bullsh*t" on the Yamaha team and he simply walked away from GP racing, never to return.
Thus it's not inconceivable to speculate that Spies could leave it all behind.