By Larry Lawrence
Laguna Seca’s MotoGP weekend was an exciting and eventful race meet that left me with several subjects to talk about.
First on my mind is Ben Spies. What a tough year he’s had. As many of you know I wrote a book on Spies, but am not a close member of his camp. In fact I haven’t spoken to Spies since last year’s Indy MotoGP, so I have no inside information on what his plans are for next year and beyond. The most popular rumor is that he’s going to World Superbike, perhaps with BMW. If true that’s great for that series, because it desperately needs a winning American, especially if they continue to have an American round.
If Spies goes to World Superbike I certainly hopes he has a path back into MotoGP. I still feel he has the potential talent to be a world champion. In order to be world champ though I believe Spies needs to realistically look where his program is today and make some changes.
For one I feel he needs to get back to having the confidence at every track as he did in World Superbike in 2009. I’ve read Spies quotes at too many tracks since he’s been in MotoGP, that this track or the other is not his favorite. He has to have the confidence that he can master any track if he’s to have hopes of being MotoGP world champ. He has the ability; you need to look no further than the amazing things he did in WSBK to know that. He needs to get back to studying tracks, even if he’s raced them before, to shore up places where he’s not as fast as he’d like to be. He also needs to figure out a way to have confidence in his tires early in a race so he doesn’t constantly have to come from behind. Few are better when racing from the front than Spies, i.e. Assen last year.
The other thing is I feel he could to do is put a little more muscle on his frame. If you see Spies these days he looks almost gaunt. I know he’s racing against a bunch of jockey-sized riders and is concerned with weight, but with the 1000cc motor Spies could stand to have a little more upper body strength , not only to be able to flick the bike around, but also to help him be a less susceptible to injury. It seems that every little fall Spies has he injures something. Having a more muscle will help prevent that.
One other thing I think Spies needs to consider is asking his mom to step back and take a smaller roll in his racing program. He’s 28 years old now and should be able to function as a man independently. Mary Spies loves her son and I truly believe the actions she takes are in effort to help him, but at times she can have a strident personality and create too much drama within a team. If he truly needs assistance Ben has plenty of people in his camp who could serve to be a calming and confidence-inspiring influence.
In more silly season opinions, if Valentino Rossi decides to stay at Ducati I feel Yamaha should call up Josh Hayes. Put him on Tech 3 or the factory team, I don’t care, but Hayes showed in his GP wildcard last year he belongs and he’s so solid in his dedication to racing, I think he would do well in MotoGP. He’s at such a peak right now and no one would work harder in testing to help a team move forward. Give him two years and I bet you’d have a rider in Hayes who could win races.
Finally if anyone ever does a how-to racing DVD, Cameron Beaubier’s Daytona Sportbike race at Laguna should be a case study on how to make a pass on a stronger rider.
Beaubier’s last-lap, turn two pass was one for the textbooks. There is no better late braker than Martin Cardenas. Beaubier knew he couldn’t pass him on the brakes, so he figured out a way to make Cardenas think he was trying to outbrake him on the outside and then slowed , allowing Cardenas to go in a little hot and then squared off the turn to make the pass on the inside. It was one of the best thought out passes I’ve seen against a superior opponent in years – using an opponent’s strength against them. And Beaubier’s technique going over the hump before the corkscrew turn was amazing as well. It looked like he was a bit out of control, but I had a racer friend who watched Beaubier frame by frame and explained how he was using the rear break, ever so slightly to get weight on the front wheel as he went over the hump, just like motocross racers do to get the front end down on jumps. There was a lot going on there technique wise and things had to work perfectly in harmony for it to work, but it allowed Beaubier to get on the brakes that much later and harder in that turn, and he managed to pass Tommy Hayden because of it.
Hey, in a perfect world Hayes could go to MotoGP for a few years and then have Beaubier step in to take his seat.
We can dream can’t we?