Ignite Pramac Ducati rider Ben Spies is confident his recovering right shoulder will have regained 100% strength in time for the first race in Qatar next month after another physically and mentally demanding three-day test in Sepang.
Spies is still unable to ride with maximum strength while he continues the long recovery from serious damage his right shoulder sustained in a fall during a rain-lashed Malaysian Grand Prix last October.
The Texan finished this week’s rain-disrupted Sepang showdown in 16th place on the timesheets after a best lap of 2.03.055 left him 2.773s behind former factory Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo’s best pace.
Spies felt in much better physical shape than he did at the first Sepang test when he struggled for strength and movement, but he admitted that his rehabilitation from major surgery is taking longer than he anticipated.
He was fortunate not to aggravate the injury too much when he crashed on the second day and he said he would be disappointed not to have recovered 100% strength in the shoulder in time for the first race in Qatar on April 7.
He said: “At Qatar if I am not 100% then I'll be upset but I think that is possible, so nothing will be holding me back by then. It is getting better day-by-day but it is just taking a lot longer I expected. I just have to keep working at getting it better and I think at the Jerez test it will improve more.
"This was better than the first test when I was way off physically and couldn't even ride the third day. Here I rode all three days and while I didn't do a whole lot of laps it was manageable. Now just after I do 30 laps the shoulder starts getting weak and it is completely different from two weeks ago, so it is getting better.
"I'm not in as much pain. I made a small mistake on the second day and had a little low side and planted my elbow on the ground, which irritated my shoulder a little bit.
"But on the last day I found a setting I was more comfortable with and I was ready to push towards the end but we had a small problem with the forks just when we were ready to put some new tyres on.
"But right now the most important thing was to judge where I am physically and I'm feeling lot better."
With few updates available for his Desmosedici GP13 before the season opener under the Losail International Circuit floodlights next month, Spies said he simply had to be patient not to push himself too quickly so he can get as much track time as possible to learn the bike.
He added:" It is just the strength for braking and I have to ride the bike differently, I can't toss the bike around like I want to ride. With this bike you need to be aggressive and have everything ready but right now I can't do that.
"We have to be methodical in the way we approach the season. I need more time on the bike. There is nothing new coming for the bike so we've just got to be patient.”
For more from Spies and Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden on Ducati’s performance at the second Sepang test, see the March 6 issue of MCN.