MotoGP: Suzuki plot Ben Spies future to fend off rival interest

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Suzuki will run Ben Spies in at least two MotoGP races in 2008 in a bid to prevent the reigning American superbike champion from being lured to the premier class by a rival manufacturer.

Ben Spies missed out on his first taste of Suzuki’s factory GSV-R machine when torrential rain wrecked his hopes of a debut ride in Sepang on Monday.

There is intense speculation already Ben Spies will quit America next year and move to MotoGP full-time in 2009.

And Suzuki is desperate to show its commitment to Ben Spies and highlight how prominently he figures in their future MotoGP plans by considering him for wild card slots in the two American rounds next season in Laguna Seca and Indianapolis.

Ben Spies is contracted to Suzuki for next year’s American superbike series, but he has made no secret of his desire to move to MotoGP in 2009, and told MCN in Laguna Seca back in July that he already had a Suzuki deal in place.

Factory Suzuki boss Paul Denning denied that, but Suzuki is acutely aware that interest is intensifying in the 23-year-old and will use the wild cards as incentives to keep him in the fold.

Ben Spies’ manager Doug Gonda, former representative of current factory Suzuki rider John Hopkins, confirmed to MCN in Malaysia he had been approached this season by three MotoGP teams about hiring Spies.

LCR Honda, Gresini Honda and D’Antin Ducati were the interested parties, but Paul Denning said the Sepang test earlier this week, despite the weather ruining it, highlighted Suzuki’s commitment to Ben Spies.

“The only reason we were in Malaysia with Ben was because Suzuki is keen to not lose a very talented rider to another manufacturer. I don’t think he wants to stay in his America for his whole career.

“The bottom line is it makes sense to start work now and see where we end up in a year from now as regards for the future. But I think Ben’s target and Suzuki’s target is not dissimilar.

“I was smashed for him in Sepang. He was really looking forward to riding the bike and Suzuki was looking forward to seeing him, “said Denning.

Paul Denning said he hoped to have Spies’ wild card rides for 2008 in place before the end of the year, confirming Laguna Seca and Indianapolis were the preferred and most logical options.

“There is still on-going discussions between Ben, Suzuki America and Suzuki Japan. He’s contracted to Suzuki America and everybody has got to be happy that anything that we do with regard to MotoGP development with him doesn’t conflict with his main target of winning the AMA superbike series.

“But I expect to see him riding the bike a little bit next year and competing in a couple of races. Nothing is confirmed yet but that is the general direction we are taking.

“He is keenest to run at the two American races He flies at Laguna and racing at Indianapolis, a track where nobody has been is always better than racing at a track like Mugello and being expecting to go quick when you don’t know the place.”

Hopes of a wild card in the last round of 2007 in Valencia though appear to have been crushed with Suzuki conscious that Chris Vermeulen and new recruit Loris Capirossi will begin testing the 2008 GSV-R immediately after the race.

“Suzuki and Ben were dead keen to do it. The problem is that we will race the 2007 bike but will start straight away with the 2008 bike.

“And with a new rider there is an awful lot to prepare for the test as well for the race. The logistics required and parts preparation required to have two full spec 2007 bikes and have everything ready to go for testing with the 08 bikes was just a little bit more than was sensible to try and achieve in one weekend,” said Paul Denning.

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt