American legend Kevin Schwantz has backed fellow Texan Ben Spies to bounce back from a nightmare 2012 when the new MotoGP season kicks off in Qatar next weekend.
The triple AMA Superbike champion endured a rotten second year on Yamaha’s factory YZR-M1 after a combination of bad luck and unforced errors left him 10th in the overall rankings and without a single podium to his name.
A tough year ended in painful fashion for the 2009 World Superbike champion when he suffered a serious right shoulder injury in a heavy fall during a rain-lashed Malaysian Grand Prix in October.
Spies has not yet fully recovered from major surgery he needed to repair a badly damaged joint and having joined Pramac Ducati for 2013 he has not yet been able to ride the GP13 close to 100%.
He was only 18th in the last test at Jerez recently and didn’t ride on the final day as his team opted for a cautious approach rather than risk him aggravating the injury in cold temperatures.
Former 500cc world champion Schwantz though believes Spies can still be a force in MotoGP, though he admitted trying to re-build confidence on the struggling Desmosedici was a tough task.
Speaking exclusively to MCN in an interview at his Austin home, Schwantz said: “I think trying to get your confidence back and rebound from an unlucky season, I am not sure the Ducati is what I would want to be on to earn my way back into a factory ride again. Spies has kind of been backed into a corner a couple of times in his career like going in and getting on a World Superbike and doing as well as he did.
He just needs to get his head back wrapped around the fact that he can be as good as any of those guys out there. He may not be on the best equipment right now but he needs to get the race set-up as best as he possibly can and beat those other Ducatis. Right now finishing in front of Nicky (Hayden) or Dovi (Andrea Dovizioso) will be a big mark on Ben to be on a factory bike next year.”
Schwantz also believes that Spies is mentally strong enough to bounce back from 2012, while also coping with the prospect of being some distance away from the front of the pack while Ducati works on improving its GP13 machine.
He added: “Ben is one of those guys that can really detune himself. Give him five minutes by himself and he starts to question himself and doubt himself. Whether he needs somebody there to remind him how good he has been in the past and who he has beaten is kind of hard to say but I think he is strong enough mentally.
But he is one of those that is so particular about how it happens in the day leading up to it that if there’s a little glitch in it seems to have a bigger affect on him than most. But when its right I’ve seen him do stuff that he has no reason to doubt himself at all.”
To read what Schwantz thinks of the prospects for Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa, Marc Marquez and Cal Crutchlow, see a special 16-page MotoGP preview in the April 3 issue of MCN.