Assen MotoGP: Ben Spies storms to career best qualifying

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Ben Spies followed up his maiden MotoGP podium at Silverstone last weekend with a career best qualifying performance in Assen this afternoon.

The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider will start from fourth place on the grid having clocked a best time of 1.34.926 with just over a minute of a captivating qualifying session remaining. 

Aided by improved turning performance with his YZR-M1 machine, Spies’ time was only 0.123s off Casey Stoner’s factory Ducati in third place and just over 0.4s adrift of dominant Jorge Lorenzo in pole position.

The 25-year-old said: “It’s my best qualifying session and I’m really happy. I wanted to get on the second row but I was a little bit worried that I would be at the back of it and for the first corner here I wanted to be in a better position. I wasn’t sure how much I would get out of the soft tyre, but as soon as we bolted it on I was faster.”

The only dilemma for Spies is whether to race with the soft or hard compound rear Bridgestone tyre in tomorrow’s 26-lap race, which is the 80th staging of the historic Dutch TT in Holland.

He added: “We’ve got good pace so we’ll look at the weather conditions and comments but I think both tyres will work. I’ve got good pace on the hard and soft tyre so we just need to see what Bridgestone’s opinion is.  The soft tyre will be quicker in the beginning so we’ll see but it will be a tough call.

“We’ve got good pace on the hard tyre but as soon as you throw in the soft the tyre it is three-tenths a lap quicker, which makes it a lot easier. But will it go the whole race? We don’t know yet. It’s a toss up but I’m usually a hard tyre guy, so I’d probably go with the hard right now.”

Spies is confident though that he will be in contention for a second successive podium after another hugely impressive display from the reigning World Superbike champion.

Spies, who won a race at last year’s Assen World Superbike race, said: “Judging by where I qualified another podium is a realistic target. The biggest change this weekend is that from first practice we were able to work on race set-up. And even though we didn’t have the front end sorted the way we wanted we were able to do a lot of stuff. I didn’t spend an hour learning the track, I spent an hour working for Saturday. That was a big boost. 

“Obviously Jorge is a way ahead of me at the front but the fight between third to sixth is pretty close. I’m in that fight and that could land me on the podium. But it could easily be a dogfight and I could end up sixth or seventh. Going into the race though I’m closer than I was with the lap times than Silverstone, so anything is possible.”

Fifth place had been Spies’ previous best qualifying result scored when he was a wild card for Suzuki at the Indianapolis round in 2008.

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt