2013 will be a pivotal year in the career of Ben Spies.
The former AMA Pro and World Superbike champ had a miserable 2012 with the factory Yamaha team in MotoGP. It was supposed to be the year Spies challenged for the title as the series switched to 1000cc bikes that, in theory, would play to Ben’s favor. However, the season was a collection of bad luck, bad blood, and bad results.
Despite it all, Spies might have stuck around with the team another year but instead chose to announce his departure during the season. The discussion went from Ben potentially joining the “aliens” to what was wrong.
Many were shocked that he pulled the plug, but Ben wasn’t happy.
Spies signed to ride with the Ducati junior team this year after a return to World Superbike seemed inevitable. It’s not a bad gig but it’s not exactly where he was a year ago… in one of the four MotoGP seats where a rider can realistically expect (and be expected) to win.
Historically, the non-factory Ducati rides are the Last Chance Saloon for MotoGP riders. If the season does not go well, what is next for Ben?
It was an odd turn of events for Spies, after a decade of progress in which he matched or exceeded his previous season’s results every year. Spies joined AMA competition in 2000 and before last year never took what one would characterize as a step back. He even improved in his three AMA Pro Superbike championships as he and Mat Mladin upped their games during that span.
He won at Assen in his first year on a factory bike and nearly won the finale at Valencia in 2011 before losing out at the end to Casey Stoner. And now he could find himself on the outside looking in as a crop of young riders will make a bid for the coveted seats in MotoGP. It doesn’t seem right but that’s the way it is in the World Championship.
Of course Spies sees his current ride as an opportunity to impress the Ducati brass and move up to the factory team next year. That’s no wild assumption. After all, he’s run up front and won in MotoGP before. He’s a fantastic talent.
If he doesn’t have a rebound season, Spies could find himself regrouping in World Superbike, which is not exactly the worst thing in the world. Spies enjoyed his year in the championship and has said he favors the more laid-back paddock of the other championship. Despite the favorable fall back option, that doesn’t mean he isn’t looking to change the opinions of some of the folks at his previous employers.
Ducati of course would like nothing better for Spies to jump out of the gate in ’13. Ducati is regrouping their MotoGP program after the Rossi Debacle and there’s always a dearth of men who can win. Ben has shown he is one of the few who can.
Story content provided by Evan Williams