American Ben Bostrom has led a charmed life. Good looks, beautiful girlfriends, lots of money and huge talent on a motorcycle have been part of the program.
Ben (I have to use his first name — his brother Eric Bostrom is also a prominent American Superbike rider) won the AMA Superbike championship on a Honda RC45 (not an easy bike to master) in 1998. In 1999, he backed that up with a close second place finish in the same AMA championship on a Ducati. He also won a World Superbike race at Laguna Seca in 1999 (finishing second in the other race of that round). All this, and he has been roadracing just five years.
Ben’s background is mostly dirt — dirt track, motocross and trail riding — he hauls ass off-road. His all-around skills helped him dominate a Supermotard race in Europe this Winter — a prestigious race attended by Carl Fogarty, Max Biaggi and others.
So, this charmed life of Ben’s is capped off with a factory Ducati ride in WSB as Carl Fogarty’s teammate. This is where the story changes.
When Ben got lapped by former teammate Anthony Gobert last week at Phillip Island, he had bottomed out — he and Gobert aren’t the best of friends, and Ben hasn’t had nice things to say about Gobert in interviews this Winter. Ben got the coveted factory ride Gobert thought was his. You get the picture.
Ben’s results this year on perhaps the best bike in the paddock (surely, for him it is — it’s the same bike he rode successfully last year) are dismal by his standards. A 9th and 8th at race one, followed by a 15th and 14th last week. What happened? It’s not just adjusting to the new team and the new tracks — it’s primarily the adjustment (or lack of adjustment) to Michelin tires. You see, Ben is a dirt tracker — he likes to slide the bike. It’s part of his winning style.
Like Haga and others before him, Ben just can’t come to grips with a switch from Dunlops to Michelins. Maybe he never will. Haga had the clout with Yamaha to force a change back to Dunlops. His results show how important the change was to him — he is leading the WSB championship.
If Troy Bayliss (injured Fogarty’s replacement at Sugo) goes faster than Ben this weekend, it will be another big blow to Ben’s ego. Ben can’t afford to seriously damage his self confidence this year — he has to hang in there and just give it his best. His day will come.