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Spies relaxed and ready for first Sepang Test

Spies relaxed and ready for first Sepang Test

After a relaxed off-season the factory Yamaha rider is more than ready to get back on a motorcycle next week in Malaysia. In an interview with he discussed not only the Sepang date but also his team structure for 2011 and his objectives for the new season.

After an outstanding debut season in MotoGP in 2010 Ben Spies returns for a second year in the World Championship as a factory Yamaha rider, with expectations surrounding the 26 year-old even greater in 2011.

As the American rider prepares for the first official Test at Sepang next week (February 1st-3rd) caught up with him to discuss his aims for the three days in Malaysia, as well as his expectations for the forthcoming season. Firstly though Spies talked about his off-season so far, which has included setting up his own cycling team and with whom he spent last week at a South Texas training camp.

“I have been getting the cycling team going and we had our first race a couple of days ago, it’s been great fun” Spies explained. “I’ve been doing my own training too, and getting ready for the first Test. It’s come round quick and I’m excited about getting back on the bike and starting with the new team. I haven’t ridden a motorcycle since Valencia so it’s going to take me a little while to get back into the rhythm, but now I’m ready to get back into it.”

Continuity will be a key factor for Spies in 2011 and as he steps up to the factory Yamaha team he will carry on working alongside Crew Chief Tom Houseworth and mechanic Gregory Wood, who were both with him in the Tech 3 set-up last year. A notable addition for this year is Massimo ‘Maio’ Meregalli, who will act as Team Manager for Spies’ crew and with whom the American won the 2009 Superbike title.

“I have a great team and everyone around me is the best I feel I could put together, now it’s up to me. I feel like a lot of the pressure is off as we have made the step to the factory team, now I’ll just do the best I can,” said Spies.

“Me and ‘Maio’ talk a lot to one another but we don’t talk much about ambitions. As personalities we have big goals and ambitions and we get along really well, we have done from day one. He just knows how I think and knows that I don’t like to talk a lot about the little things. When I’m in the garage he’s very good at being able to read what I’m thinking and what I need. We have a very good bond. It was a big deal for me coming over to Europe for my first year (in Superbikes in 2009) and he took such good care of me. We obviously won the title together but he was also a really good friend too. We were also able to put that aside and work very well as a team, and he runs a very good programme. He listens to what I need and I can’t wait to work with him again.”

Shifting focus to the upcoming Test, Spies said: “We will obviously have to look at some stuff Yamaha will have for the bike, and for me it’s more about going there to ride, getting the bike moving in the right direction, working as a team, and then going back for the second Test and really treating it very methodically. We always want to go fast and make improvements, but what position we’re in or how fast we go is not the goal. I just need to get comfortable on the bike again and we need to understand how the team works together.”

Team-mate Jorge Lorenzo tested a new M1 engine at Valencia last November, and when asked what more he feels he requires from the bike Spies responded: “We could see last year we needed a little more straight line speed, that was obvious during the season, but the overall M1 package is fantastic. It’s a great balance of a motorcycle that does everything very well, and I think we just need to work on the engine a little bit. Right now I don’t know exactly what will be at the Test, there could be a huge change in the bike and I’m just getting ready to see what will be brought – we’ll see when we get there and then evaluate it.”

Well known for his cautious approach to stating what he expects to achieve ahead of a season, Spies discussed his aims for the 2011 campaign both in terms of results and personal development.

“It’s very simple for me. Every year I want to do better than the year before. In 2010 we finished second, third, fourth and fifth, had a pole position (at Indianapolis) and led the race for a little bit. We didn’t do anything crazy but we were very solid, and we didn’t win a race. I wasn’t expecting that out of myself, I think maybe some other people were,” he commented. “So next year it’s to fight at the front consistently, and to win a race. That is the goal. We finished sixth in the Championship so we want to do better and finish in the top five. You can’t always make huge, huge gains, but if I do better than I did last year there will be a win and we’re going to see the front more often. “

Spies continued: “I also have a great team-mate and I’m ready to try and learn from him as well. Jorge is super fast and has a lot of talent. I’m comfortable with my race craft and things like that, I like how I do things in that area, but I’m not scared to say that I need to learn how to go faster and I think he is a very fast guy. With other things, from how I train to my approach to races, I don’t like to change because that’s what I’m happy with. But I do have to learn how to go faster on a motorcycle.”

Ready and willing to learn from defending World Champion Lorenzo, the ultimate aim will be to challenge his team-mate as a measure of how far Spies has come.

“When the lights go off I want to win the race, as does everybody on the grid. I do want to beat Jorge, he’s the first person you want to beat, but he’s the fastest guy in the world and is an awesome rider. First I need to try and understand why he goes so fast. He is a genuine and talented guy and wants to win. There’s nobody else right now that I’d like to be team-mates with more in terms of learning how to go fast on a motorcycle, and I’m very excited about being team-mates with him for next year,” concluded Spies.

MotoGP, 2011, Ben Spies, Yamaha Factory Racing

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