Assen MotoGP: Ben Spies toasts maiden victory
Ben Spies hailed his commanding Assen MotoGP victory as the greatest moment of his career as he helped Yamaha mark its 50th anniversary celebrations in style yesterday.
The Texan was never seriously threatened once he’d opened up a cushion of 2.589s on the first lap as team-mate Jorge Lorenzo was involved in a fifth corner collision with Marco Simoncelli.
He eventually finished over 7.6s clear of Repsol Honda rival Casey Stoner to become the 11th American rider to win a MotoGP race and join legends like Kenny Roberts, Eddie Lawson, Wayne Rainey and Kevin Schwantz.
The 2009 World Superbike champion said: “Once I had a four second lead and I knew Casey had about four seconds on Andrea (Dovizoso), I knew I had the podium wrapped, even if the soft front tyre went to crap. But I knew it wasn’t going to come apart but I was afraid it was going to get to a point where Casey would catch me.
"But I knew he was also on the soft front, so I knew if I could just be consistent and keep the lap time at mid 35 to 35.7, with a four second lead with 10 laps to go, he was going to have to pull some miracles out to catch me. I just needed to be consistent and that’s what I did. I’ve been used to leading races, but it’s been a while since I’ve led a race.
"When you’re seeing plus 3.5 and plus 3.8 for 15 laps and the name under it’s Stoner, you’re not really resting easy. But there was never any fear once I knew I could get into my rhythm because I knew I had the pace to keep Casey at bay, maybe not put time on him but where he couldn’t catch me. My fastest lap was a 35.2 in the middle of the race and I know we could have gone into the high 34s if we needed to.
"I didn't want to have to push that being on the softer front tyre, which I don’t have a great feeling with but we could take more of a risk than Casey could and I knew that. I knew he knew that Lorenzo had crashed so he wasn’t going to ride over the limit. It was actually quite a comfortable race.”
The only concern for Spies was the possible intervention of rain. The earlier 125 and Moto2 races had been disrupted by rain that had dominated the weekend, and many anticipated the MotoGP race to be a flag-to-flag encounter.
But despite the constant threat of dark clouds over the Circuit van Drenthe, the 26-lap race was completed in the dry and Spies told MCN: “I was looking at the clouds during the race and I didn’t think it was going to rain except for the last three laps.#
"It got quite dark and I just knew when the crash happened with Marco and Jorge I needed to establish as big of a gap as I could to make it easier in the end.”