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Why Ben Spies Isn’t Done, Yet

Ben Spies literally shocked the world in 2009 when he came over from the United States to race in the World Superbike Championship, winning it without ever having ridden the tracks, and being totally unfamiliar with the culture … on an all new machine. He immediately moved to MotoGP and took Rookie of the Year honors in 2010.

Yamaha promoted Spies to the factory MotoGP team in 2011, following the departure of Valentino Rossi to Ducati. Spies proceeded to take 4 podium finishes that year, including his first MotoGP win at Assen. He fished in 5th place in the Championship.

2012 looked like the year Spies might move up to challenge the top riders, including Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa on a regular basis. Why? The new 1,000cc bike seemed to be the perfect compliment to him. It largely erased the disadvantage he had as a result of his physically large size and weight, and seemed to favor a riding style he had used to great success in winning the WSB title, as well as several US Superbike crowns. It nevertheless all went wrong.

No wins, and no podiums. 2012 was filled with horrendously bad luck with his equipment, as well as health issues and crashes. Some of the problems were within Spies control, but most of them were not.

Taking 2012 out of the equation, Spies career has formed an upward arc that should eventually lead to a MotoGP championship. Should we now assume that will never happen? Will a year on a Ducati further damage his self confidence?

Ducati now has the financial backing of parent Audi, and the Volkswagen Group, but Valentino Rossi’s best efforts over the course of two years didn’t result in a race winning machine, and there are no guaranties Ducati will close in on its moving targets, Honda and Yamaha.

Spies will have a full factory Ducati, at least. The same bike that Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso will pilot. With four factory bikes on the grid, there should be plenty of feedback for the engineers to improve things. When you listen to my recent interview of Nicky Hayden, you might detect a bit of concern on his part when the subject of Ben Spies comes up. Make no mistake, his fellow riders still know Spies is fast.

Ben Spies has unfinished business in MotoGP, obviously. 2012 was definitely a year to forget, but we won’t be surprised if Ben Spies picks up where he left off in 2011. His new Ducati may be the biggest question, but we think Spies talent and heart are without question.

69 Comments

  1. monsterduc1000 says:

    “There are many motorcycle racers that are at the very tops in their respective fields..motocross, flat track, ice racing, hill climbing, supermoto, yet I believe very few could ride a MotoGP bike competitively.”

    …And vice versa. If you took the top motogp guys and threw them into any of the categories you mentioned, I believe they would struggle… to win anyway.

    This is not a motorbike analogy, but look at Kimi Raikkonen. One of the best f1 racers in the world who left to rally race and couldn’t quite cut it. Just because you are at the top of one racing category, does not mean you will be competetive in one that is still racing, but a completely different style.

    • mickey says:

      Oh I agree completely.

      The statement was made in reference to McGuiness being a top motorcycle racer (which he undoubtedly is) but that just
      because he excells at TT on the Island doesnt mean he could win at MotoGP.

      I called MotoGP riders the best in the world and I suppose I should have qualified by saying at closed course motorcycle road racing but since we were talking MotoGP and WSBK I thought that was evident.

      Sorry for any confusion

      For the record I think MotoCross racers are the most physically fit motorcycle racers in the world.

      I think Ice Racers are the craziest ha ha

  2. mickey says:

    You know when I look at WSBK results it looks like there are only 4 riders who realistically have a chance of winning a race, much less a chmpionship. Melandri,Checa,Sykes and Biaggi. There are a few more who make it to the podium, but not enough to be players in the Championship. Only 4 riders sat on the pole last year, and 3 of those only had 1 pole. Once past Guintoli in 5 th place the riders were more than 100 points off the points leader and barring disaster by the 4 riders ahead of them have zero chance at winning the championship. Stuff 30 bikes on the track and its going to look more competitive, but in reality, in WSBK as in MotoGP there are only 4 who realistically have a chance of coming out on top.

    In any racing ( other than Nascar who depends on crashes altering the outcome of every race ) in every racing series there are only going to be few who have more talent ( and hence garnering the better rides ) and the cream will always rise to the top.

    MotoGP and WSBK are essentially the same imo only MotoGP has the best riders and the best bikes.

    • mickey says:

      I meant Rhea in 5 th.

      There were more manufacturers involved in the top racing though and thats always a plus.

    • brian says:

      I wouldn’t call it cream, more like marketing fluff.

      Are you sure they are the same?

      2012 WSBK Race Winners
      1. Biaggi
      2. Checa
      3. Guintoli
      4. Rea
      5. Sykes
      6. Melandri
      7. Baz
      8. Davies
      9. Laverty

      2012 Moto GP Race Winners
      1. Lorenzo
      2. Stoner
      3. Pedrosa

      2012 Brand Winners
      1. Aprilia
      2. Ducati
      3. Honda
      4. Kawasaki
      5. BMW
      (Note: and Suzuki got their game on towards the end of the season)

      2012 Moto GP Brand Winners
      1. Honda
      2. Yamaha

    • brian says:

      Hey Mickey

      Please understand I’m just having fun, I get what your sayin about only a small group of guys having a chance at the title. But we see things differently, as I’m really down on Moto GP, personally I think it’s a mess of a series. (Of course I’m still at every Moto GP race I can get too, old habits are hard to break I guess.)

      Cheers

      • mickey says:

        I understand Brian, and yea that was the point I was making. Even though 9 riders had won races, in truth only 4 had a chance to be the champion. I wish MotoGP had as full of a roster as WSBK with more teams participating. I miss Suzuki, and Kawasaki participating, I thought Suzuki was really coming along with Crutchlow. It would be nice but hardly feasible for manufacturers like Aprilia and BMW to compete in MotoGP. Dont know what the answer is, only that the whole series suffers from lack of participation, and that CRTs are not the answer.

        I do believe that the MotoGP riders are the most talented in the world and if you took the top 5 riders from MotoGP and the top 5 riders from WSBK and put them on identical bikes, and ran them for a 16 race series, the top 5 finishers would be the MotoGP riders. They ride MotoGP because they have proven themselves to be the best riders in the world.

        Watching guys race who could not make it in MotoGP is like watching the Canadian Football league, sure its the same game, but its not the NFL where the best football players play.

        • brian says:

          Hey Mickey

          Again, just for fun, a few more alternate thoughts.

          Crutchlow never raced for Suzuki Moto GP, you might mean Bautista, who was the only Suzuki rider in the final year. Before that was was the 2010 team of Vermeulen and Capirossi. I thought Vermeulen had some great rides for Suzuki, but in reality Suzuki never responded to the 4-stroke switch in 2002, it was basically a death sentence for them as development cost skyrocketed.

          Moto GP may not be feasible for Aprilia, but BMW can more than afford it, they are simply smart enough to not want to be a part of it.

          Lack of participation is likely not going to change until prototypes are removed from Moto GP. Only Yamaha and Honda are willing to afford it, and Ducati of course, they just cant figure it out. No body wants to jump into that mess, and finding outside sponsorship is nothing short of wishful thinking.

          So, like I said in an earlier comment on this story about Ben “He’s Not Finished Yet” Spies, the only way for Moto GP to be successful is to become WSBK.

          Your idea in the second graph (Top 5 from GP and WSBK), this I would love to see. We are for sure of opposite opinions on this. I don’t understand your thinking on that one.

          I’m also confused by what you mean by “could not make it in Moto GP”. Does your list of the best riders in the world only consist of riders who have won a Moto GP race or better yet a Moto GP championship? Max left Moto GP without a championship, does that mean he could not make it in Moto GP? And last but not least, if John McGuinness is not one of the best riders/racers the world has ever seen… well then I just don’t want to be a part of this world. ; )

          BUT! You are right about Canada and football!

          Cheers

          • mickey says:

            Brian..you are right it was Bautista who rode for Suzuki. He was turning in some pretty good rides at the end. One of the pitfalls of my advancing age ( Im 62 ) is the mind sometimes plays tricks on me and remembers things a little wrong.

            Yes imo Max could not make it in MotoGP. And Yes John McGuiness is a tremendous motorcycle racer, at least in his element. It would be interesting to see what he could do in MotoGP. There are many motorcycle racers that are at the very tops in their respective fields..motocross, flat track, ice racing, hill climbing, supermoto, etc, yet I believe very few could ride a MotoGP bike competitively.

            I find it amusing we are talking about Spies who said “finishing anywhere in the top 10 in MotoGP is the equivalent of winning a WSBK race.” And when he has an opportunity to go back to WSBK, instead chooses to remain in MotoGP even if its on an uncompetitive bike.

            I believe if you asked any up and coming roadracer what his ultimate gogoak

          • mickey says:

            Sorry didnt finish..old guy with i pad typing with one finger hit wrong place on pad…..

            Anyhow if you asked the goal of any aspiring roadracer it would undoubtedly be to win the World Championship in MotoGP, There is only one ultimate goal in road racing and that speaks to its perceived value.

            I had to chuckle at your agreement on football. thanks.

            Have enjoyed the give and take Brian, and appreciate your allowing me my opinion without getting all pissy about it. You are a gentleman. I realize there are many WSBK fans out there who are fervent in their defense of the series and in the end may prevail, but as a fan of the World Championships of road racing since 1965, for me it just wont be the same. Ive always admired the worlds best riders on the worlds best bikes. Anything less is just Canadian football on motorcycles,

          • Brian says:

            Mickey, Of course, pleasure chatting with ya. If we all thought the same there would be no reason for commenting. Have a great 2013, and I’ll see you at the races!

    • Dustin says:

      To me its not as simple of winners. Even though you can see that WSBK had a much greater variety. Its the actual race that is different. The pole stats is just because Tom Sykes had a bike that could pump out consistently the fastest times. But, that didnt translate to wins. This year may be different, mid season they really turned that bike around as far as longevity. Yes, there were 4 really big players championship wise, but that was because of consistancy. There were also very few blow outs. Yes, the same 4 may have more often then others grabbed that top of the podium, however it was usually within a decent pack of 4-8 riders that had a chance for that win.

      MotoGP the race is damn near decided before it starts. At BEST you could hope for a 2 bike battle, and a good battle for 4th-8th. Its like watching a parade. I dont believe the fix is eliminating prototypes. Without that then well..its not MotoGP. I think the fix is in the direction I think they are trying to go. We want to see the bikes we can never ride. We want those expensive bikes we could dream of. But…to put some sort of caps, whether financially or performance wise to atleast make it more feasable to get good PROTOTYPE bikes on the grid. Whether its having the big players agree to get more satelites on the grid, or making it easier for the former companies to come back. There just need to be more big players. I take NOTHING away from Lorenze or Pedrosa, but…i cant help but feel that it would at least be closer if there were more worthy bikes on the grid.

  3. brian says:

    Regarding Audi and Ducati, can someone please tell me what motorcycle racing experience the Volkswagen/Audi Corp. is bringing to the table? It’s amazing how hopeful everybody is that this auto manufacturer is gonna turn around Ducati’s Moto GP woes. Engine development, suspension technology, research and development resources etc., that’s all wonderful, but it’s not motorcycle racing, heck it’s not even motorcycles.

    When Rossi was told “Hey are you sure you want to leave? Audi is here, things will be different now.” What did he do? He left, because he knows. His years are numbered, and he obviously doesn’t want to spend another one doing R&D.

    Big corporations hire the best in the business, and expect the best results. Isn’t that what Ducati did with Rossi and Burgess? What about money? Now they have that big VW bank account to draw from. I don’t ever remember reading of Rossi or Burgess saying they could have done better if Ducati had more money, or that Ducati wasn’t getting the one-off parts supplied in a timely matter. Seemed like every race they had a new swing arm, frame, motor or suspension to test. Ducati threw everything they had, including the kitchen sink at their Moto GP program the last couple of years, which ended in the worst ROI in motorcycle racing history, one could argue that they actually regressed.

    Please tell me there is more than just German organization that is going to provide this miracle turn-around. The factory BMW team struggled in WSB, then in comes Marco, and his Italian crew and all of the sudden the bike starts working through to the checkers (see: German auto maker struggles with tire management in motorcycle racing). Ducati and the Italian crews know how to win races, and eventually they will, but I wouldn’t be too quick to credit Audi when it happens.

    And as far as Ben goes, he’s one of the top riders in the world, but that’s been a requirement to ride a Moto GP bike for as long as I can remember. Many years ago Rossi wanted to prove to Honda and the world that it’s the rider not the bike, and he did so with Yamaha… or did he?

    • Patrick says:

      They are not bringing any motorcycle experience to the table. The VW/Audi group is bringing deep pockets to better fund the development.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “Regarding Audi and Ducati, can someone please tell me what motorcycle racing experience the Volkswagen/Audi Corp. is bringing to the table?”

      dickus.

    • Dustin says:

      No, but Rossi did complain, whether true or not, about the extremely slow development. I believe he mentioned something on the lines that Honda had put out something like 4-6 frames for every one of his. Or something like if the other Factories would have experianced the same issues Ducati had when he initially got there he would have seen 4-6…something like that.

      Ducati being a comparatively TINY company compared to Yahama and Honda, with HUGE resources out side of motorcyles was at a disadvantage there. So, I suppose thats something money can surely change. Could be as simple as having a larger dedicated factory that wasnt feasible before? Manufacture more, faster, and you have more things to test and eliminate?

      Thats being pulled completely out of nowhere haha. Just a way I can see more money helping a team out. I wouldnt rule out the power of money all to much. Dont forget deep pockets means more of those really expensive smart people like engineers they can hire.

      • brian says:

        Yes, I see what your trying to say. But Ducati as small as they are compared to Honda and Yamaha isn’t really the issue, Ducati was one of the few Mfgs to grow after the economy took a dive, they were and still are doing quite well from a profitability standpoint (which is why it was sold).

        If slow development was an issue for Rossi, the VW corp, which is soon to surpass GM as the largest auto Mfg in the world, surely would have been a strong incentive to stay. But he didn’t, and that is an interesting clue as to how far Ducati is from the answers. In a series where a tenth of a second per lap is a serious problem, Ducati is just too far off at the moment. They need know-how, and they hired (what many would assume) was the best in the business (Rossi/Burgess) to do it, and they couldn’t get it done, and I doubt even 5 frames “per day” would have changed anything.

        I mean think about this, Rossi is back at Yamaha, do we all not remember his bitter departure, as Yamaha turned their loving eyes from him to Lorenzo. He gave Yamaha an ultimatum and they said, thanks for everything, don’t let the door hit you in the … Just how bad is it at Ducati for him to go crawling back to Yamaha? OK, maybe the fact that there are only 3 employers in Moto GP might have something to do with it. :-) But still, you get my point.

        Sadly, even if Ducati did become competitive overnight, the series “Moto GP” still has one foot firmly in the grave. Three Mfgs to support a whole series, thats 4 bikes per, 12 on the grid, 6 of which exist in part due to an anchor sponsor, which are getting harder to find each year.

        I’m not debating whether more money for Ducati’s Moto GP effort is a good thing, it can’t hurt. Just looking back on the last couple years, makes me doubt it’s the magic bullet many hope it will be. I don’t know the answers, and all my speculation could be bunk, time will tell. I will say this, if anybody should capitalize on a Ducati turn of fortune, Nicky deserves it, I think he is one of the best out there and deserves a bike that can get it done.

  4. mickey says:

    Imo Spies would have been smart to choose a different path. He was superb when he wasn’t in MotoGP. He had some good rides in MotoGP but I think it was evident early on he wasn’t ready to compete on that level. So, rather than go back to where he can consistently win, he signs on to ride the least competitive bikes besides the CRTs (which do not even belong on the same track). Either he is overly confident in his riding abilities or Ducati is paying him a freaking steamer ship full of greenbacks. Enough that after 2 years of disappointments and failures he could walk away, never having to ride agin.

    • NJ Bears Fan says:

      I pretty much agree with all you’re saying, except for the part about never riding again. I suspect he’ll continue racing for quite a while after MotoGP, but at some lesser organization’s series.

  5. StreetHawk says:

    There might be some clues in the Cycle World article. The Ducati is and was known to be very stiff. Spies mentioned Lorenzo able to ride wheels in line and find traction through very soft settings that Ben doesn’t get on with. Rossi was previously fast on the Yamaha with it’s bias for needing soft suspension settings. He couldn’t make the Ducati into a Yamaha though. Spies describes his own riding success with bikes he has to manhandle. Stoner always looked as if he was forcing the Duck well winning with it. If Spies self assessment is accurate coupled with the Audi input he may stand a chance. Testing and maybe the 1st 3 races may tell the tale of his season and future.

    • Hefner says:

      That may be the most compelling argument I’ve heard for Spies doing well on the Duc. As far as Spies’ GSX-R and R1 superbikes, for sure the Yam needed a firm hand to get the most out of it, But I’m not as convinced of the GSX-R… That bike was refinement personified. It may have had monster power, but it also had the most advanced electronics in the paddock. But okay, I’ll buy into that, Mladin and Yates are hard chargers. But as far as the Ducati GP bike just needing a firmer hand, someone who was willing/able to ride it a little more ragged, that’s where you lose me.

      Case in point, Rossi. The same argument was made for why Rossi would win on the Ducati, as we was someone who knew how to make a motorcycle submit. 500, 990, 800… It didn’t matter what he rode, he adapted (one-off rides on superbikes throughout the years revealed him to be quite fast). If he can’t make it work, there’s something fundamentally wrong with the bike, period.

      I point my finger at the frame: When a motorcycle is leaned over in a turn, much of the suspension action comes from flex in the fork, the headstock, and the swingarm. Just like frames in the 90’s, forks grew bigger and bigger to combat excessive flex, but at some point they went too far and front end feel suffered. Ducati’s “frameless” concept clearly messed up the flex that was in the headstock area and never figured it out. They tried to fix this with the FTR frame, but when I look at that frame I don’t see finesse, I see big fat 90’s frames. I don’t think Ducati’s problem was frame concept, so much as it was a lack of understanding of how stiff, and in what way a frame needs to be. Go read Furosawa’s comments from when he visited Preziosi earlier this year. He seems to have been explaining some basic stuff (for their level) to Preziosi who was “Impressed”

      With all this said, I don’t think it’s just a matter of needing the right rider to control the bike. It saddens me, because I really thought Ben Spies was going to be the next American rider to hit the front, but I don’t see him, or any Ducati rider having a decent first half of the season. If anything, I think it will be the second half of the season where we see what kind of improvement, if any, will be had for 2014.

      If I had to bet, I’d bet on Spies slotting somewhere in between Hayden and Rossi’s 2012 performance, with any improvement to come from there.

  6. brian says:

    I’m not going to pretend to understand why Ben stayed in Moto GP. The series has 4 riders, and 2 manufacturers. Thanks to injuries this usually equates to 2 to 3 riders racing on any given week end. I know who and how many bikes are on the grid, but they are not participants of the “race” until one or more of the 4 potential winners crash. Let’s not forget the side show called Ducati, we get to speculate on their fate, and watch prototype R&D in action as they ride around week after week testing new parts.

    This series is in jeopardy, make no mistake.

    We watch as Dorna postures for the deep pockets of Honda and Yamaha to get out of Moto GP and take their prototypes with them. At which point they simply have to figure out some way to get as many brands back on the grid (Dear Honda & Yamaha, please come back, just leave your check book at home), and tougher yet, generate a somewhat level playing field between them. Sound familiar, it should… we already have it, its called WSB. It’s a formula that works, and they have a history of fantastic seasons to prove it.

    I’m no Moto GP hater, in fact I’m the opposite, but it seems to be on a path of self destruction. Moto GP is at a turning point, unfortunately I believe that Dorna’s take over of WSB is the beginning of the end for that series. Dorna’s golden child is Moto GP, and I fear WSB will be the sacrifice to make it shine again. Both fans and racers seem to be conditioned to think Moto GP is the holy grail of two wheeled racing, and I believe that was true for many years, but not any more. Point in case: take Spies for instance, instead of a chance to take BMW to it’s first WSB championship, he has opted to do parade laps in Moto GP. I can’t get my head around that.

    At one time Moto GP had an identity, there was nothing else like it, it was unique, it was two-stroke racing, and for the most part affordable to all MFG’s who wanted to race. The switch to 4-stroke racing created a performance ceiling that was out of site and the cost of development skyrocketed, sent the smaller MFG’s packing and the he-who-spends-the-most-wins business model was adopted. If I wanted to see that I would just watch pro stick and ball sports. Sometimes I wish Moto GP would just quietly go away, it seems Dorna is trying to morph Moto GP into WSB, and for that plan to work WSB will have to be dialed back, watered down, aka ruined.

    If I can only afford to go to Laguna Seca once this year, you can bet it will be the week end of Sept.28th. Dorna’s talking heads have already stated they wont begin “changes” to WSB until 2014. The writing is on the wall for WSB, and its replacement isn’t looking very attractive right now.

    • Hefner says:

      I agree with almost everything you said, except of Spies chances of winning in WSBK on the Beemer. My understanding is that the factory team has disbanded, with factory support now being given to the second string team, which has not really been competitive. It will not be the same team that almost took the championship this year, and I predict Melandri’s results will show that.

      On the other hand, Melandri was originally on his way out when this change was announced, but was somehow convinced to stay. Maybe there was only room for Ben or Marco?

      Too many questions… Too much idle time to think… I really need the racing season to get underway.

      • brian says:

        Yeah, your point is well taken on the BMW team in WSB, which is a shame. But an interesting parallel is that when factory Ducati pulled out of WSB, they started winning. I know there were many factors involved with that success, but still an interesting point. Of course I am bitter about Ducati pulling out of WSB, then Yamaha and now BMW, but in spite of all that, the series still thrives, and manages to provide the most exciting two wheeled racing we have, with a depth of riders and MFG’s on the grid that is unmatched. Also regarding Ben, I honestly believe whatever BMW effort there is in WSB, it will be more rewarding to it’s rider than a Ducati Moto GP ride could ever be. (just speculating of course).
        Cheers!

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “take Spies for instance, instead of a chance to take BMW to it’s first WSB championship, he has opted to do parade laps in Moto GP. I can’t get my head around that.”

      4 words… “Circuito De Estados Unidos”. it’s the one and only ACE card he had to play and gottd#@%it, he’s going to play it…! in some ways, this makes him the star of the team…? too bad neither he nor the bike will be even remotely up to speed, but all eyes on texas.

  7. NJ Bears Fan says:

    There was no Yamaha conspiracy against Spies — he had the same equipment as Lorenzo and the team was lead by the guy HE picked (Houseworth). Why did all those weird things happen so consistently — maybe it was HIS team and HIS riding style. The fact of the matter is that Spies does not have the talent to consistently hang with the top 3 MotoGP riders. I’d like to see an American become successful in MotoGP, but unfortunately it’s not going to be Spies.

    • MUSTAFA IBRAHIM says:

      Hmm…I seem to remember every single American riding in Grand Prix getting food poisoning, yet I don’t recall hearing that any other riders have gotten food poisoning, going all the way back to the Kenny Roberts era. Nicky Hayden has said that there is a lot of anti-American sentiment in top-level racing. Sometimes I have to wonder if there are a lot of people in racing who want to inhibit American success.

      • NJ Bears Fan says:

        I don’t doubt for a moment that many interested parties want to inhibit American success. But I can’t believe the conspiracy is so organized, so focused, and so clandestine (no one seems to be able to prove anything) as to cause all the problems Spies has encountered this year. That’s why I tend to point my finger at the one obvious common variable — Spies.

        • Norm G. says:

          remember, this is business. it’s not so much about “inhibiting” as it’s a question of what’s the payoff for us circling the wagons around a yank…?

          A: dickus.

  8. Ricardo says:

    BTW, I just read an article that Spies wrote in Cycleworld magazine where he mentions that his bike was exactly the same bike as Lorenzo was riding, same everything, just different team and bike set ups, so why the many failures? it makes you wonder…

  9. Ricardo says:

    I am sure Spies will give it all his best as he did with Yamaha, it almost seems like it was some type of conspiracy to make his bike have so many catastrophic failures in 2012, not even the CRT teams had as many failures as Spies bike had, very unusual for a factory team.
    Also it needs to be taken in consideration that riders do differently performance wise depending on the machine they are racing, so maybe, just maybe, the Ducati will suit Spies style better? hopefully, we will see this year, go Spies!!

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “hopefully, we will see this year, go Spies!!”

      what fans in the states better hope for is that they get to see ANYTHING…!?!? for the first time in recent history it’s NOT a foregone conclusion that we will. :(

  10. Norm G. says:

    re: “Some of the problems were within Spies control, but most of them were not.”

    everything after but.

  11. GG says:

    WSB is a second class category. so many have excelled in WSB without any GP success to match simply because they are not good enough. Fogarty, Corser, Checca, Edwards, Bayliss, even Biaggi to some extent. Admit it guys, MotoGP glory is for the very best.

    • Dave says:

      The difference now is that WSBK wins are more credible now than MotoGP wins. Everyone knows that if you’re not on a Repsol Honda or Jorge Lorenzo himself there is zero possibility of earning a win, not matter how good you are.

      When a rider wins in WSBK, he’s beaten 6+ plus true win contenders on win capable machinery and it doesn’t matter to most viewers if there are 2-3 more competitive riders over in Moto GP riding around a track by themselves.

      • Hefner says:

        +1

        Biaggi was a race winner and champion contender on both a 500 and 990. True his GP fortunes waned, but clearly the determination and talent was still there in WSBK. Melandri did the business with Fortuna Honda, and Checa has proven that he is of the same caliber as the both of them in WSBK.

        True Rossi came along and made them both look silly, but calling them not good enough for coming in second is a little harsh.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “MotoGP glory is for the very best.”

      MotoGP glory is for those holding the correct passport. i said this regarding spies like 1-2 years ago, only NOW do we see more clearly.

    • 2wheelin says:

      That may have been true when the rider was the most important factor in MotoGP racing. Now, due to the electronics packages the most important factor is the equipment. Honda and Yamaha have been the worst thing for MotoGP because they only provide 1 or 2 bikes that has any chance of winning whereas WSB there are way more players with equivalent performing machinery.

      I would rather see no factory team at all. If honda, or any manufacture wants to provides bikes, they should have to provide the same bike for all of that manufactures riders. I personally don’t care if every rider on the grid is on one type of bike. give me 10 possible rider going for the win and another 20 just behind them.

      • Dave says:

        Re: “I would rather see no factory team at all.”

        We get to see that with Moto2 and it’s awesome.

        • Norm G. says:

          sorry, nothing “awesome” about a human being risking his life on a job without pay just so i can be nothing more than entertained. it’s got a “3rd world” stink to it. no love.

          • Norm G. says:

            ps: we can be sure simo was drawing a check, but i don’t even wanna know what tomizowa’s pay status was when he died.

          • Dave says:

            I don’t follow..

            Are you saying everyone in Moto2 races for free?

          • 2wheelin says:

            Not sure what you are saying here? No has mentioned racing for no pay.

          • Norm G. says:

            re: “Are you saying everyone in Moto2 races for free?”

            god, i sure hope it ain’t everyone, but many are.

            re: “Not sure what you are saying here? No (one) has mentioned racing for no pay.”

            exactly, and why would they…? it’s what i call “motogp’s dirty lil’ secret”.

            when’s the last time you had to back up your own BRINKS TRUCK to the dock at your job before you could clock in…? lemme guess… never.

        • Dave says:

          Fair enough, but that’s common in most forms of motorsport. The grid has varying levels of financial backing from factory backed to weekend warrior. It doesn’t change the fact that Moto2’s grid is almost full and 10+ guys are in it for the win on any given weekend. It is more entertaining, better quality racing than MotoGP has been able to produce in decades.

          • Norm G. says:

            re: “Fair enough, but that’s common in most forms of motorsport.”

            i beg to differ, both dale jr. and fernando alonso earned roughly $30 million respectively in 2012. nascar and F1… two “common” motorsports aired on television to wider audience, same as MotoGP.

            re: “It is more entertaining, better quality racing than MotoGP has been able to produce in decades.”

            not entertaining enough to make it the draw, or get me to turn a blind eye to free labor scams. a team unable to pay their employees before a season even begins…? is the first indicator they shouldn’t be on the grid.

          • Dave says:

            I don’t see how two of the most prominent Auto racers in their respective classes are relevant to this conversation. The top guys always get the biggest $$. What do Rossi, Lorenzo and Stoner make? What do the guys in F3000 and lesser stock classes make?

            Racing is in no position to deny teams spots on the grid. They are trying to grow the grids, not shrink them. If guys are willing to ride for free to get a leg up, why make them stop? Their choice.

  12. Patrick D says:

    I think that Yamaha really messed with Ben’s head, but he also showed fragility where we didn’t expect to see it.
    That second place at valencia 2011 was very important in my eyes. If Ben had gone into the season on the high of a fantastic win that he had worked so hard for, it might’ve been a springboard. Instead, he had the whole off season to stew and that really didn’t help.
    Combined with downright bad luck, apparent negligence on behalf of Yamaha and off bike stuff, and it was little short of a nightmare season. In some respects, he’s fortunate to still be in this class. MotoGP sorely needs a competitive Ducati this year and I hope we get it.

  13. Tom says:

    Excellent article on Ben on the Cycle World Facebook page. Looks like Ducati made an offer to him he couldn’t refuse.

  14. Pork Chop Express says:

    It would be great to see Ben get on the podium this year but as others have mentioned that’s probably a long shot with where Ducati is coming into the 2013 season. Shame he couldn’t have jumped ship to Honda as I think that would have given him the best chance for a comeback. That said nothing would be better than to see Ben and Ducati prove all of us wrong and have a great MotoGP season this year. Go Ben, we’re pulling for you all the way!

  15. Hefner says:

    Stoner was a great rider, and he definitely was the most successful Ducati MotoGP rider… But if you look at his win totals for the Ducati from 2007 on, they were steadily decreasing:

    2007 = 10
    2008 = 6
    2009 = 4
    2010 = 3

    To be honest, I think Stoner got out just in time, if not a year or two late. Could he win on today’s Ducati GP Bike? I doubt it. His last season he was basically riding the bike on faith, and although there were some wins, and some blisteringly fast lap times, there were also numerous crashes, including 5 DNF’s, clearly indicating he was overriding the bike. People like to afford him godlike status on the Ducati, and although he has nothing left to prove on that bike, I don’t think he’d be a contender on it today, just as Rossi was unable to make it work, just as Dovi, Spies and the rest will surely fail next season.

    But… I do believe there is light at the end of the tunnel. I believe the biggest problems at Ducati, have effectively been removed, or will be shortly. Preziosi was the first to go, and there have been additional announcements of more senior people being “reassigned from Ducati Corse to Ducati Motor”. Audi will come in and fix the problems with typical German precision, make no mistake… But this will still take time. The 2013 bike has surely already been designed, so I expect it to start the year pretty much where it left off; as the slowest prototype on the grid. I would however hope to see plenty of mid to late season upgrades, and would expect them to be “clean sheet” designs, as clearly this bike is fundamentally flawed, and I expect Audi to recognize that.

    • 2wheelin says:

      Yes, hef but due to the pending sale of Ducati, they were not allowed by Audi to spend any money changing the bike to Rossi’s spec. Rossi had a numerous changes to the bike that were never performed. I read somewhere that when Honda wanted a change, 2 weeks later they had the part. So, Ducati ended the year on basically the same bike they started with.

      • Hefner says:

        Fair enough, corporate buyouts don’t happen overnight, and this was kind of a big one. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that the deal was in the works up to 4 months prior to the announcement. But that still leaves 2011… Although I do give them credit for the Aluminum Chassis. Not that it worked, but that they were willing to accept defeat of their chosen chassis design. You may be on to something there.

        But in any case, Stoner complained about the glacial pace of improvements almost since day 1. I’ve heard everything from “Casey’s winning, so why change” to pigheadedness to accept that a design was flawed, to that’s just how we do it in Italy. Whatever the reason, Ducati steadily has fallen behind every year since 2007, right up to 2012. The reasons may have in fact been different each year.

        Ultimately I’m just glad that Audi seems intent on fixing problems, however painful the fix may be. The series needs more contenders.

    • Gary says:

      I seem to remember health problems playing into his declining results. Something about undiagnosed lactose intolerance.

      But I agree with you that Stoner won races despite the Ducati team, not because of it.

  16. HotDog says:

    I still say that he’s going to Suzuki in ’14. By then, Dorna will have mandated mundane sameness and we’ll all be bored as hell. The bunch of clowns running this side show will have us thinking that caution flags in NASCAR are exciting as hell.

    • Hefner says:

      I am no NASCAR fan… But I would love to see pit stops in bike racing. For one, the guy who gets his tire choice wrong, or just missed the setup in the morning warm up has a chance to make it right and try to grab back some points. The guy who was mid-pack in the first half could suddenly come on strong due to setup changes made during a pit stop. Second, the spectacle that is a superbike pit stop is something truly marvelous to behold. Guys jumping over the wall, tires flying off faster than you can open a can of bud, it’s some impressive stuff. And finally, pit stops can create great drama. What if it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that the guy out front by 10 seconds was going to win? One mistake during a pit stop can erase a lead like that, no problem!

      Make the tires last 12-16 laps, make the races just long enough so that either a 1-stop or 2-stop strategy could work, make the pit crew wear cameras and mics, and make the show interesting to watch. This sport needs new fans, and the current show just plain lacks spectacle. I’m sorry, but when the most interesting thing in the show is the super slo-mo shots, you’re doing it wrong. This is RACING, you’re supposed to be going fast! (Keep the slo-mo, it’s cool, and I’m just trying to make a point)

      There are plenty of good pit stop videos from the Daytona 200, go watch a few and try and tell me they’re not cool? Then imagine what an extra million dollars worth of Genuine MotoGP ingenuity could do to that pit stop?

      • Mark says:

        You’re no fan of NASCAR??
        Fabricated drama is no way to spice up the series
        Maybe we should mandate the riders gain 20 pounds and drink a lot:)

      • Peter says:

        Please! No pit stops!

        One of the things that brought me to motorbike roadracing (from years of auto race viewing) was the “fairness” of uninterrupted bike races.

        A rider earns his (or her) lead through good preparation, strategic passing, and good tire management. I hate it when none of that seems to matter. Where everyone can go flat out, planning on stopping for tire and setup changes. The result? Processional races where most of the passing ends up happening in the pits. If pit stops become regular practice, will the teams then start using confusing fuel strategies, and the organizers full-course cautions?

        NASCAR for bikes? With the exception of Daytona -no thanks for this fan.

      • bikerrandy says:

        You’re confusing long distance races with 1 hour races. Yes, I like to watch the Daytona 200 pit stops, but a bad 1 can cost a rider the win too.

        • Hefner says:

          Okaaaay…. Clearly I’m in the minority here!

          While I agree with many of the points made here, I think you’re missing some of my point, or at least my intent. But before I continue… Do any of you bemoan the loss of the push start?

          Anyhow, I shall continue in random mixed up order:

          Yes, pit stops mean that sometimes the fastest rider on the day might not win. If Lorenzo’s team biffs a pit stop and he loses, so be it! Practice harder, or hire a better crew. And it’s not manufactured drama, it’s racing, and sometimes it happens on the track, (Spies Qatar, Laguna) and sometimes in the pits (Pedrosa Misano). I’m not suggesting stupidity like rolling starts or full course cautions. For one, standing starts are just about the most exciting part of the race, why change it (do you prefer 3, or 4-wide?), and full course cautions are not racing, it’s parading. And parades are boring regardless of the subject matter. No it’s not fun when an underfunded team has a fast bike, and a fast rider, and then loses 45 seconds on a pit stop (Zemke) but Pascarella rocked the D200 this year on a bike thrown together in the pits, with an unrehearsed crew, proving an underfunded team can get it done.

          Regarding fairness, how is it fair that you have to be on either a Repsol Honda, or an Eneos Yamaha to even have a chance of winning? And back in the day, it was Michelin who picked the winner by withholding their best tires from everyone but a select few. Bayliss Versus Edwards 2002? Epic stuff!! But inherently unfair. I believe only Factory Honda and Factory Ducati had their best stuff that year, as evidenced by Every Single Win going to those two teams (Except Tamada in Japan, but he was effectively factory Honda)

          Confusing fuel strategies…

          During Tom Sykes first season and a half at Kawasaki, he could not get the grip he needed out of the harder tire, and was forced to use the softer option. Race after race he would rocket to the front, only to start fading part way through the race. It was predictable, and I got used to paying attention to the race for second, because I knew that it would soon be the race for first. Throw in a mandatory pit stop, and along with it the possibility of “Confusing tire strategies”, and all of a sudden his package might work better with an extra pit stop thrown in for a fresh set of softies, all the while allowing a lighter fuel load. Instead of being doomed to fail, maybe he could have had a shot, if even only at certain tracks.

          Tire management. Historically, the Twins of WSBK have been better on tires than the Fours. And yes, rider skill or style is a big factor here. Well here is a way to potentially equalize that by allowing different tire strategies. With Biaggi holding right behind Sykes in second with 8 laps to go, you KNOW how that will play out. It’s not fun to watch, because you have 6 laps until Biaggi passes Sykes, I guess it’s time to grab a ‘Bud. But if Sykes was on a 2-stop strategy, and Biaggi 1, What would happen?

          I have no idea how a pit stop could/would work within the same time frame, maybe it can’t. But if the show was better, networks would be willing to accommodate it. It seems like a 10 lap tire would do the trick, it would keep roughly the same race length, and may produce ‘harder’ racing on softer tires, further adding to the spectacle.

          MotoGP is a snooze-fest. WSBK, after finally finding balance, is about to be neutered (it will get worse before it gets better). If I want Good Racing on stock bikes, I can watch DMG Sportbike or Supersport. I want to see Full Factory Prototypes, and Factory Unobtanium Parts, but at the end of the day the show is just boring. I’d rather see a pass in the pits, than someone ‘almost making a pass’.

          And finally, it takes a team for a rider to be able to take the checkers. This would just give them a little more focus, and maybe a little more glory.
          Here is an excellent article that sums up that attitude (it describes Motorcycle Road Racing as a team sport which I loved):
          http://www.asphaltandrubber.com/racing/trackside-tuesday-dani-pedrosa-misano-tire-warmer/

          Come on! Give the idea a chance! Sleep on it…

          • Norm G. says:

            re: “If I want Good Racing on stock bikes, I can watch DMG Sportbike or Supersport.”

            can you…? you sure…?

          • Hefner says:

            Norm, I can’t reply to your comment so I’m replying to mine.

            No, I’m not sure DMG racing is any good as I haven’t watched it for some time. Rolling starts and pace cars were a joke (and dangerous), and I deplored the dumbing down of the Superbike class. But I do seem to remember flipping to it and seeing bikes going into turns 3-wide, which is always entertaining. But you may be correct, as I have no recent experience.

            My point was that when I watch WSBK or MotoGP, I don’t want to see near-stock motorcycles, leave that for the support classes. If you want to qualify as a SUPER bike in my mind, it shouldn’t be something I can build in my garage.

          • Dave says:

            @Hefner- Basically what you’re saying is that the motorcycle is more important than the actual racing.
            If the peak technology leader can put everyone else out of contention then you don’t have a race on the track anymore, just a race to generate revenue. Not enough people are willing to pay to see that (evidenced by sponsors running from MotoGP).

            While I like standing starts, There are fewer more terrifying things that I can think of in racing than stalling the engine on the 2nd row at the start. Rolling starts fix that for the most part.

          • Hefner says:

            The first race bike I ever saw, or remember ever seeing, was Kocinski’s RC45 superbike, coming flat out of turn 2 at Laguna, and they let you get CLOSE on Friday practice back then. I was literally Scared by the sound of it, I didn’t know an engine could sound like that. It snarled, and was so damn LOUD, but it sounded so damn sweet!

            And then the exhaust aroma hit me.

            I love the machined aluminum, the TIG welded titanium, and the bare carbon fiber. A superbike should have a modified crank, titanium rods, and high compression pistons.

            Yeah, the motorcycle is important to me.

  17. stinkywheels says:

    I’d love to see Spies do well, but I have my doubts. Stoner or his equivelant could win on the Ducati at one time, but times have changed. Moving target best described it. Rossi and Burgess are a very good developement team and they didn’t seem to be able to get the Ducati to a wining form. I don’t think the current trio can give the proper feedback in a timely manner to make a winner out of the bike. I’d love to be proven wrong. My favorite brand with 2 of my favorite riders.

  18. al banta says:

    I agree with what Gary said, but I have confidence in Ben. Possible that with Audi on board they can make it work. If Stoner did it then maybe someone else can to??

  19. Gary says:

    He may mesh with the Ducati. I sincerely hope so. But there is nothing about that team and that bike that give me confidence. Stoner is still the only person who could win on that bike, IMHO. Please, Ben, prove me wrong.