Ben Spies showed why he’s so highly rated by Yamaha after he qualified in the top ten in Valencia today after just three hours on board a YZR-M1 machine.
The Texan, who recently clinched Yamaha’s first World Superbike title, clocked a best time of 1.33.539 to qualify in ninth position for tomorrow’s 30-lap race.
The triple American superbike champion was only 0.5s behind new Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team-mate Colin Edwards and over 0.6s away from 2009 MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi.
Significantly though he easily beat British rider James Toseland in a sunny but windy qualifying session.
Spies was 0.6s faster than the double World Superbike champion and he said: “The one thing I’m happy with is I haven’t made any silly mistakes yet.
"I’ve understood some more things about the bike and just from the data they are saying that I’m starting to do things different compared to what I was in the first session.
"Qualifying where I did made it a decent qualifying session but the bike and the tyres are for sure still better than me. I feel like I’m riding hard but I know I’m not taking it to the limit.
"I’m trying to find the limit slowly and make progress. The gap to the guys in front of me is getting smaller and smaller but that’s when the hard work starts. But after three hours on the bike it is not a bad result.
"The race will be tough because the first few laps on the tyres is so different to what I’m used to. That will be a downfall for me but the last 15 laps is where I want to see how I compare on lap times against the front guys.
"I want to do a good race but the tyres are so different that in the first five laps is where I will definitely struggle. In qualifying I put together an okay lap but not a super lap. A couple of turns I left a little out there.
"One turn I was in thinking ‘there is no way this is going to turn’ and I let off the brake and hooked it in there and it was the most perfect turn I’d made all weekend.
"The limits are just a lot higher than what I’m used to and it is hard to wrap my head around it. We’re slowly getting there but after 60 odd laps on the bike it is not a bad result.”
Spies said he was slowing building his confidence on the Bridgestone tyres having spent a year using Pirellis on his factory Yamaha R1 in World Superbikes.
He added: ‘I’m getting to the point with the rear now where I can spin it and feel it. The front now and I have no idea where the limit is. I’m not even going to lie about it. Once I take it to the next limit I’m sure I’ll start having some feel with it and start going faster too. Right now the speed I’m going I’m not having too much of a front traction problem.”
Spies said he had deliberately not followed anybody today in a bid to learn the skills of riding a MotoGP by himself.
He was passed by dominant Casey Stoner and also Jorge Lorenzo in this afternoon’s qualifying session but told MCN: “Jorge and Casey passed me but I didn’t even try to follow them. I didn’t want to look that stupid on TV.
"I feel when I get comfortable on the bike I can be competitive but those four guys right now are in a different class to everybody. Once I get comfortable I’ll be able to see where I’m going to be.
I might never get there and that’s a possibility because those guys have a lot of talent and they could have more talent than me. All I can do is get comfortable and see where we do stack up.”