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GP Week : Issue 16
US Star to quit in rule protest DOUBLE AMA Superbike champion Ben Spies, currently on target for a third straight crown, has blasted the radical rule changes in the American national series, and promised he will turn his back on American racing next year, even if he does not achieve his goal of gaining a MotoGP ride. Spies (23) would be prepared, if reluctantly, to accept a World Superbike ride rather than race in the dumbed-down AMA series. “I want to be over here (in MotoGP), but with what’s going in America I’m not racing there next year. It’s not happening. Not doing it.” Spies said it was the rule changes that were driving him out of the US, “but the safety is what’s got me upset.” The new Daytona-linked promoters, who purchased all rights from the AMA this year, have said that races must go ahead if it rains, even at tracks currently deemed unsafe in such conditions. “I’ve been told not to say much, but I really don’t even care,” he said. “It’s just ridiculous. I feel bad for my buddies that do race there. I wish they could all leave, it’s gotten that bad. “There’s tracks were we can ride in the rain and there’s tracks we can’t. That needs to be understood. The safety thing has completely blown me away,” he said. The rider’s bombshell came at his MotoGP debut, as replacement rider for the injured Loris Capirossi on the Rizla Suzuki, where he made a particularly good impression in the wet, qualifying eighth. In the dry, his approach impressed observers as much as his elbows-out style (he sometimes uses the nickname “Elbowz” in the US), but he was disappointed to place 17th. Spies had tested last year’s Rizla Suzuki at Valencia, but another planned ride in Malaysia had been rained off. He had to learn not only the difficult British track, but also the bike, while adapting from Dunlops to Bridgestone tyres and different front-and-rear suspension, and carbon brakes. “Trying to learn the bike and the track is a little tricky. I’m not usually this far back. But if we can drop another second, we’re going to be right in there with a bunch of people to race,” he said. The GP Suzuki, compared with his Suzuki Superbike, felt “like I’m on a completely different brand of a bike,” though there was not much difference in speed and power. Spies hopes to join MotoGP as soon as possible. “Now I know that with the right time on the bike and a good team that we could do it for sure. I know we can be competitive,” he said. Asked about a possible move to Superbikes first, he said: “Obviously that’s just another year that I’m not in this paddock. You know, I thought I was young until I’d seen all these little kids on those 125s. The fact is, if I want to do something over here, I need to be over here as early as I can.” Spies has been with Suzuki throughout his GP career, and has been waiting for a MotoGP ride for more than a year. He is down to wild-card at Laguna Seca and Indianapolis, but in the long term is victim of the factory’s muddled policy, with no definite promise forthcoming. ADVERTISE in GPWEEK For more details CLICK HERE to access a HuGE global audience n Motorcycle GP racing’s 60th year was marked at Donington with the start of a series of special celebrations, with the presentation of MotoGP trophy replicas, called “Champions Towers”, to former 500 champion Phil Read, and the sons of first champion Les Graham and multi-champion Mike Hailwood. Geoff Duke and John Surtees were unable to attend; Barry Sheene’s trophy will be presented to his widow in Australia. The first 500cc race was the Isle of Man Senior TT, on June 17, 1949. n Multiple 250 and 350 champion Jim Redman was also at Donington, where on race day he started up a replica of his iconic title- winning Honda Six. The 350 machine (actually 297cc) is one of six faithful replicas, built in Britain. n The 18th annual Day of Champions raised £186,000 for the Riders for Health charity on the day before Donington Park, with thousands of fans paying to visit the paddock, and then take part in an auction where riders and teams donated kit and memorabilia for auction. The charity provides fleets of motorcycles to delivery primary health care in impoverished African countries. HIGH SIDES 14