We saw former AMA and WSBK champion Ben Spies at Laguna Seca last weekend. We interviewed him in AlpineStars hospitality.
Q How's your health?
A My health's really good. It's been a rough year, as we know, and a lot of people really didn't realize how bad it was, because obviously a lot of people aren't doctors. Neither was I. I thought I could get back a lot quicker than I could. If you talk to anybody that knows anything, or a doctor, and they know the injury I had, it's a very, very, very big injury, and I kind of just always played it off, "yeah, I'll come back quick," and stuff like that. So that's what I told people, too, but it was - it's been the hardest eight months that I've ever had. Mentally, physically - at first it was physical, and then now, the last couple months that I'm starting to feel good, it's more mentally I want to be back, when in the beginning, it was hard to mentally be there when physically you're so down. So it's been kind of a transitional phase. But now, I feel physically very good. So now I'm starting to, being back at the track, I want to be back on the bike.
It's been definitely a long road. But I feel like the last couple months we did the right thing, and we can go to Indy 100% and kind of start our season, basically.
Q What have you been doing since Austin for rehab?
A A lot of things. Everything. A lot of people want to know what the rehab is, but this place I've been going to, it's the best in Dallas. It's one of the best in the US. Basically, when they see something they want to work on, we do that. If they're happy with that, we move to something else. Or when they see some instability or some weakness in one area, they work on that. And they go off of what they're seeing. I've been working with two great guys, and I've come a long way in the last couple months, and been doing as much as I can do.
Q Are you going to be ready to go for Indy?
A We're going to be good. It's the first time I can get back on the bike. Okay, for sure I'm going to be a little bit sore when I'm at Indy, because I haven't ridden a GP bike in so long. But I can go to Indy with the mindset of riding the bike and getting up to speed, not "how's my shoulder going to hang in there?" and "how hard can I ride because of my shoulder?" and then "how bad is it going to be after this session?" Now, it's more getting back up to speed and doing the job at hand, and working in a progressive way to get back up to speed.
Q It's been a bizarre last 12 months. Assen, last year, you were the fastest guy in one of the practice sessions. Now you have not raced a GP in months.
A If you look at last year, it was a horrible, horrible season in a lot of ways. But then, when things weren't going wrong, it was actually not bad, and we were fast. Like you said, at Assen we were fastest. We were battling for the podium there. Then we had a tire, basically, come apart in the race. Laguna we were battling with a really good position here, and had the shock linkage break. At Barcelona we were doing really good. We felt we were battling for the win, for the lead, in the opening laps, and I made a mistake.
We had good speed last year, we just had a lot of bizarre crap go on, that I did make my fair share of mistakes, but then half the season was ruled by mechanical woes or tire stuff or broken parts on the bike, and stuff like that. So it was just a really strange year. And then it ended with the big crash that took me out for the rest of the year, and kind of messed up the first half of this season.
Q Do you dwell on the last 12 months, and the bad stuff that happened at Yamaha?
A You do in the beginning. You can't say that you don't. In the beginning I was obviously pissed off. But that's the way it goes, too. If I look back at, I've been racing for 20 years now. I've been a professional since, I guess, 2000. I've had a lot of great success and done a lot of great things, and entered the record books on a world level, in WSBK, in the AMA. I've done good things in GP.
In our first year, I think the third or fourth race we were on the podium. So we've done really good things. It's just we've had one year of horrible sh*t. That's one season. So that's all it takes for people to completely lose faith, to start rumors, to say ... I've heard that I got married, I heard that I was retired, I heard I was riding World Superbike, and I heard that I was just at home because I wanted to be at home, and my injury wasn't real. It's funny the things you hear. If I come back at Indy, let's just say in a storybook way, and I was to win the race, everybody would shut up and they would forget about the last year. That's the sad thing about racing, too, is you're only as good as your last race. the rumors? It's quite funny, but all we can work on is getting back to 100% health, which I've done quietly at home the last couple months, I've been working, been talking with Ducati and they know my status. They've been behind me. That's all we can do. You can't always listen to everybody else, or you'll never get back on top. Like I said, the beginning was difficult, but now it's coming around.
I've been a lot happier in the last month than I have been in a long time, just because I've been in a lot less pain, and getting back to where I need to be.
Q A big injury is obviously hard on your body, but it can also be hard on a rider's mind. You've got a lot of time to think. How is your mental state?
A You do have a lot of time to think, and when you're hurt, you obviously look at the bad first, before the good. When you wake up and your shoulder's hurting in the morning, and you gotta go to rehab, and you turn on MotoGP.com and you see bikes flying through the air, and races, and stuff like that, it's difficult. But then as soon as the racer comes back into you, when you start feeling good, like I said, the last month and a half, I've started to feel good, started to feel stronger and healthy and back where I feel, what's normal. And then those thoughts go back away and you start just looking at the good stuff. So I think it's pretty much normal, when you're down, and when you're injured, to look at the bad before the good.
Like I said, I'm happy with how everything is now. I'm feeling good. I'm feeling ready to be back on the bike. It's always, that's how it goes with injuries, and especially with an injury that takes such a long time to come back from.
Q Nicky has announced that he's not coming back to Ducati next year. Does an opportunity exist there for you?
A Yeah, for sure. I mean, I've got a two-year deal with Ducati. That could be, I could make even more rumors happen (Laughs). It could be AMA. It could be World Superbike. It could be factory. It could be a satellite team. But I'm happy. Pramac's been behind me the whole time. It's a great team. I haven't been able to do what I wanted to do for the team, but that's how it is. Ducati's been behind me. I know they're talking, they're speaking with, I'm sure, Crutchlow right now, which he's speaking with a lot of people. He's doing great. And fair play to him. If he doesn't sign with Ducati, and Nicky obviously isn't going back to Ducati, there is, yeah, there's a chance we could be there. That hasn't been talked about, but that's just common sense. But. Either way, if I'm with Pramac next year, or with the factory, I'm content. I know we're going to be on the best bikes that they have. So we just wait and see.
Q Media people in MotoGP come to me and just confess that they don't know you. They want to know you, and they don't know how to approach you. They are asking me about you. I find that so odd, because I think you have a good rapport with so many in the US media.
A Yeah. I do. There's a couple - there's few journalists that, you know, I'll be real with, because unfortunately, the paddock can be a little bit of a soap opera, drama. Not all, but there's a lot of websites that, a lot of their information are rumors, and can be. I've read a lot of funny things that just, I don't even know how it would start, really. So I'm careful of what I say and who I talk to. At the end of the day, my fans and stuff like that, I'm appreciative for the guys that are behind me, because they know I'm me, and I'm not trying to put on a show, and be somebody I'm not. And also, that I'm not just going to be somebody I'm not, like I said. It's hard to make everybody happy. But I'm not going to let a lot of people in when they might take it the wrong way, or do something. If they don't know me, that's fine.