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GP Week : Issue 64
e Great Superbike Jinx? Although there has been no official confirmation, Ben Spies now seems certain to come straight to MotoGP next year whether or not (according to some reports) he wins the World Superbike title at his first attempt. As the key to the final pieces of the MotoGP jigsaw, this will put him straight into the coveted second seat at Tech 3 Yamaha. And ready in waiting for the factory team, when Rossi goes. It will be a meteoric rise, from AMA Superbikes to MotoGP in two years. Is it because the Texan is different? Will Big Ben be able to buck the trend? The one that says Superbike champions just don't make it in grand prix racing? There is a long history behind this assertion -- a string of multiple World Superbike champions coming to GP racing, and failing to progress much further. The list runs from Colin Edwards and Troy Bayliss to James Toseland, and the road along which the triple AMA champion Spies is travelling at such speed does not offer much encouragement. This is the jinx he will have to break. So what is it that stands between these riders -- clearly tough competitors at the top of their form -- and the same success in MotoGP as World Superbikes? There's nothing actually obvious, except in the results. The individual cases are all different. Troy Bayliss came in looking good on the factory Ducati. He battled with Rossi now and then, and took three rostrums in his first season. The results tailed off the next year, and Ducati dropped him at the end of it. Bayliss switched to Honda, but never could come to terms with the very different feel and technique required. Ducati took him back to Superbikes in 2006, and he added two more brilliant championships to his first in 2001. Bayliss did have one last card to play. Ducati brought him back as a wild card for the last round of 2006. He smouldered in the pit under the gaze of the man who had sacked him, then went out and won the race. He remains the only World Superbike champion to have stood on the top step. Colin Edwards was another -- twice a winner in the four-stroke class, and arriving in MotoGP at the same time as Bayliss. Much was expected: MotoGP had gone four-stroke the year before, and these men surely knew everything about how to race a four-stroke. Colin's problem was his motorcycle. The Aprilia three wasn't fast enough, and pioneering fly-by-wire electronics gave it light-switch responses that made it a real handful. Then began a long career, with one year on a Honda, then a move to Yamaha. It could hardly be called unsuccessful, and by MICHAEL SCOTT Moto GP FEATURE >> 29