Sepang MotoGP: Ben Spies withdraws after double crash

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Battered and bruised Ben Spies has withdrawn from tomorrow’s Malaysian Grand Prix, just hours after vowing to ride through the pain barrier in Sepang.

The Texan has struggled with a major rib injury he picked up in a massive qualifying crash at Phillip Island a week ago that forced the 2009 World Superbike champion to sit out the Australian round.

Spies had a torrid time in sweltering heat at Sepang today and after crashing in this morning’s final free practice, he fell heavily again in the 60-minute qualifying session.

The factory Yamaha rider lost control of his YZR-M1 machine at Turn 10 but he had initially pledged to start the 20-lap race and fight for a top 10 finish after eventually qualifying in 16th place.

But a Yamaha statement issued four hours after Spies spoke to the media in Sepang read: “Yamaha Factory Racing rider Ben Spies will not participate in tomorrow’s Grand Prix of Malaysia. Spies sustained a concussion and tearing of the soft tissue around the rib area after crashing during qualifying for the Grand Prix of Australia, preventing participation in the race.

"Despite starting this weekend with the full intention of racing, two further crashes during today’s practice sessions have highlighted the restrictions his injuries have imposed on his riding abilities.

"Following consultation between Yamaha management and the rider it has been jointly decided that it would be wise to not participate in the race to avoid the risk of further injury.  Spies will also miss Monday’s 1000cc test in Sepang.

"This decision will allow Spies the optimum chance of recovery before the important final race of the season and subsequent 1000cc test at Valencia in two weeks time.”

Spies had set a best time of 2.03.678 to finish 2.216s behind Dani Pedrosa’s pole time and he told MCN: “I feel like I’ve been dragged under a truck. It was a rough qualifying but we tried to do the best we could. On the first qualifying tyre I wasn’t able to do a lap and said I was having a problem with the front tyre.

"It was tucking for no reason and then I put the second soft rear tyre on and on the first lap I lost the front and it turned into a little bit of a high-side. I don’t really know how it happened actually. It was a weird deal and I’m not able to be on top of things right now and not able to be quick enough to fix the mistakes.”

Asked what he thought was a realistic position to finish the penultimate race of the season in tomorrow, Spies added: “Top 10. I think that’s possible. Look at what attrition does in the race and if you stay calm and steady, hopefully I can finish in the top 10.

"We're in Malaysia so we might as well go out there and show some support. I don’t want to sit there and watch the race that’s for damn sure, so we’ll try to be out there riding.”

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt