1993 world champion Kevin Schwantz knows where Ben Spies is right now.
"I suspect he wants to ride but his body won't let him," Schwantz says of Spies, who announced his retirement from racing earlier this week because of injuries suffered in GP racing.
"I guess it's a difficult personal decision for a rider. I know it was for me. I didn't have a great 1994 but felt with the off-season that my 1995 was going to go well. I had convinced myself all that winter that I could still do it even with the way my body was after my injuries. I felt okay on the bike initially and tried to do the whole season but in the end I wasn't able to and had to retire."
Schwantz won the 1993 world championship, then raced the 1994 season injured, finishing fourth in the world championship, with a very popular win at Donington Park. He missed the last three races of the season after a crash in the Corkscrew at Laguna cracked his hip. Schwantz withstood the pain just three races into the '95 season before deciding to hang up his leathers for good in Grand Prix.
"I hope that his injuries don't hinder him for the rest of his life," Schwantz said, "and that he is able to go on and race bicycles or race dirt bikes and enjoy it. I hope he can get back to a place where riding motorcycles is fun again. I hope he can find that place that draws us all in--that riding motorbikes is just fun."
Many people suspected when they saw Spies at the Austin MotoGP round that he would not last the season. Schwantz says he did not get that vibe because he didn't see Spies at Austin. "I never saw he or Mary at Austin," Schwantz says, "I don't know if that was a political thing because of the lawsuit (Schwantz is embroiled in a lawsuit against CoTA) or for other reasons. Regardless Ben is really good at masking his emotions but I think the way the season played out that a lot of people were thinking he was going to have an uphill climb to bring himself back to the level we associate with Ben Spies."
Spies and Schwantz worked together when Spies was still racing against Mat Mladin in the US Superbike championship. "What I tried to do was to get him to focus on his own sheer talent and ability and step away from the mind games. That he had to do ten laps at lap record pace, not just one, to shut Mat up. And if it didn't work that way that he could not walk around with his tail between his legs." Schwantz was hoping Spies would stay with Suzuki as he made his leap to Grand Prix but Spies signed with Yamaha instead.
"If he is unable to do it, race a GP bike, then this seems like as good a time as any to raise the flag and call it quits," says Schwantz.