Ben Spies: Yamaha is ready to race for wins

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Ben Spies is confident Yamaha’s impressive new factory YZR-M1 machine is capable of winning the season’s opening race in Qatar next month after he completed his 2012 preparations by setting the fourth quickest time in Jerez.

The Texan ended with a quickest lap of 1.39.495 to finish 0.715s behind pacesetter Casey Stoner, who has dominated the pre-season schedule by topping the leaderboard twice in Sepang and in Jerez.

The 2009 World Superbike champion, who is expected to be a much more serious title threat this season, told MCN he felt the new Yamaha is ready to race when the campaign gets underway in Doha on April 8.

Although the YZR-M1 didn’t top the timesheets at any winter test, Spies and team-mate Jorge Lorenzo are convinced the new 1000cc machine has cut the advantage Honda had in 2011.

Lorenzo was second quickest in Jerez and British rider Cal Crutchlow a fantastic fifth, and Spies said those performances as well as his own demonstrated Yamaha’s potential.

He told MCN: “The bike is ready but we still got to make some improvements. We know we have some things coming that we’ve tested already and we are happy about. I can’t say it is the best bike on the grid because we don’t know yet but I feel it is ready to race for the win.

“I definitely feel more confident and I know I am still the dark horse but I feel a lot more comfortable on this bike and feel like we’re closer to the front. Dani (Pedrosa), Casey and Jorge are still the three guys to beat but I’m closer than last year.

“I can’t say I’m going to be in Qatar and setting the pace but I feel like we can run up front and I’m optimistic. Last year we really weren’t ready to go to Qatar and we wish we had some more parts but I feel all of us at Yamaha are ready to go there with a lot of confidence.

“The Yamaha is looking good right now and it worked well in Sepang and again here on two totally different tracks so we go to Qatar with no big pressure. We need to improve the bike but we have a good base package right now.”

For seven pages of news and views from the Jerez test, see the March 28 issue of MCN.

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt