BOMBSHELL. Was all it said, one tweet from the 2009 World Superbike World Champion. What that tweet linked to was an article on superbike planet. Attached an email “Yesterday I made a comment on Twitter to cause a stir. (Today) I’ll be more in saying that I have chosen to leave Yamaha after this season for a litany of reasons. I will explain more when I feel it is appropriate. I’m discussing my situation with my sponsors and they are behind me. There are a few people at Yamaha who I hate to leave. And they know who they are. I wish Yamaha the best. I won’t make any further comments until the official announcement comes out.” WOW
Since that bombshell was dropped we are still no closer to finding out what went on, and where Ben will end up. The Texan has been silent since the news and he has been the surprise of 2012, sadly for all the wrong reasons. The switch to 1000cc machines was meant to be Ben’s chance, and pre season testing backed this up. But ever since the lights have gone out in Qatar something just hasn’t been right. While we can sit here, talk about bad luck (broken swingarms and helmet problems) or talk about a perceived lack of application and mistakes, that’s not what this post is about. I want to talk about Spies from now on.
While after the statement the most telling quote to come from Mr Spies would be “I’m heading back to where I belong” Back to where I belong, where is that? Superbikes? AMA? Suzuki?! The options seem limited. We have since seen Spies linked with nearly every ride out there. Initial rumours of retirement were rife, right after Casey Stoner dropped a bombshell of his own. These rumours were soon ended by Spies, if not totally ruled out that doesn’t appear to happen.
The early reports from people supposedly in the paddock was that Ben was indeed heading to BMW to be a part of their Motorrad Italia team. BMW Italia owner Serafino Foti rated the chances of Spies riding for the team at 99%, but by the time the World Superbike paddock alighted in Silverstone, those odds had dropped to “70 to 80%”, Foti told Bikesportnews.com.
The thought process behind this was that Ben would ride alongside Marco Melandri in 2013 in WSBK before spearheading a potential move into MotoGP for the German manufacturer in 2014. But reports of Leon Haslam being offered a 2013 ride seem to rate the chances even lower than “70 to 80%” of Ben ending up there.
So if BMW World superbikes is out of the question, where does that leave Spies? He seems less certain to leave the GP paddock than he was in the weeks after the statement. We have read that he has had talks with Gresini about riding their RC213V with factory support, seemingly a ideal opportunity to get back the confidence he appears to have lost with Yamaha. Although Gresini has said that he was preferably looking for an Italian rider for sponsorship possibilities, although he may be loosening that requirement after talks with Scott Redding have also emerged. So with that ride also looking tough what else are his options?
With Ducati looking to form a junior team in the model of Yamaha and tech3 would he be the man to partner the imminent announcement of Andrea Iannone on the Pramac satellite Ducati? A strong rumour from the Brno test day was that he had already signed for them, but that remains to be seen. The next question, and probably the more important one is would Spies want to ride a Ducati? a non factory one at that. They don’t need the “passport” as Nicky Hayden has already seen USA Ducati sells skyrocket, so what would Spies, and Ducati gain from it? It remains to be seen…
The perceived final option would be “back to where he belongs” in the shape of Suzuki. With news coming from Japan that Suzuki are working hard with their new prototype it would seem a serious possibility. Riding for the company that guided him to his AMA titles, the brand of his boyhood hero Kevin Schwantz, bring them back to their glory days. It’s perfect isn’t it? It would appear not. With the bike not being ready and Suzuki recently ruling out the possibilities of wild card 2013 rides, Ben would have a year of solid testing in Japan (as there are no testing regulations on the bike) or due roles with riding in the WSBK series. The GSXR1000 isn’t a race winner in the superbike grid, but neither was the R1 before Spies. Its all about his ambition and his motifs.
For what it’s worth I can’t see Ben leaving the MotoGP paddock next season. He has the talent, its all there for everybody to see, something just hasn’t been there this season, weather its Tom Hounsworth or Lin Jarvis or anybody in between hopefully they wont be an problem for Ben. I couldn’t tell you who I think he will ride for but again I think we will see him with the likes of Lorenzo, Pedrosa and Crutchlow.
What ever Ben decides, he will have to make his decision quickly, as rides in both paddocks are going, and going fast, and it would be a shame to see his obviously present sensational riding abilities to go to waste on a back marker. He needs to break this silence and drop another bombshell on what has been a minefield of a 2012 season.