In the last of our series looking back at the riders of 2013, we come to the unluckiest man on the grid. Ben Spies' season was a thing of nightmares, ending with his decision to retire. Here's a review of his year.
|Ben Spies||Ignite Pramac Ducati|
|Score||Attitude 9/10, Luck 1/10|
Up until Qatar 2012, Ben Spies' career had been something of a fairytale. Talent spotted by his later crew chief Tom Houseworth, he took the fight to Mat Mladin in the AMA and beat him fair and square. He won the World Superbike title at his first attempt, on tracks he hadn't seen until Friday morning practice. He grabbed two podiums in his rookie MotoGP season, then a win in his second season after moving up to the factory Yamaha team. And then it all went horribly wrong.
After a series of bizarre mechanical mishaps throughout the 2012 season, Spies suffered major shoulder damage in a crash at Sepang. He had already decided to leave the factory Yamaha team, signing with Ducati to race at Pramac. After surgery to fix the damaged tendons in his shoulder, Spies turned up at Sepang in February 2013 only to find the going tougher than expected. He skipped one day of testing, then tried to make a return three weeks later, but found himself struggling once again.
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2013 MotoGP season review (Part 2)
Unlike football, tennis and many other sports, there are always many more losers than winners in bike racing. So, out of the many defeated riders and factories in MotoGP, who were the biggest losers of 2013?
Apart from the lowly souls who finished last every weekend, or Indonesian Moto2 rider Rafid Topan Sucipto who crashed 26 times without scoring a single world championship point, those who came out of the year the worst were Ben Spies, Dani Pedrosa, Valentino Rossi and Ducati.
To read Mat Oxley‘s 2013 MotoGP season review (Part 1) click here.
Preview press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone ahead of the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island:
As the 2013 MotoGP season heads into its final five races, negotiations for 2014 are coming to a head. While the seats on factory and satellite machines were filled some time ago, the next level of competitiveness, both in terms of riders and bikes, is now up for grabs.
Two names and two teams were the focal point of the negotiations, and the log jam behind which many other riders were waiting. It was up to Aleix Espargaro to make a decision on whether to stay at Aspar, or pay off his contract and head to the NGM Forward squad, and up to Nicky Hayden to decide whether his future lay in MotoGP with Aspar or Forward, or if it was time to head over to World Superbikes, and become the first rider to win a title in both series.
In turn, the Aspar and NGM Forward teams had become the hot ticket, because of the packages they had to offer, and how competitive they are expected to be. Forward will be running Yamaha's leased engine package, consisting of an engine, frame and swingarm from the 2013 Yamaha M1 for 2014, with the rest of the bike to be built by FTR. The British engineering firm will then build an entire chassis package for 2015, though the chassis could be entered earlier if it is finished. The package will run the spec Dorna software instead of Yamaha's custom electronics, and this is likely to be the limiting factor on performance.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after the the San Marino Grand Prix at Misano:
Yonny Hernandez is to replace the injured Ben Spies for the rest of the 2013 MotoGP season. So far, Spies' seat has been filled by Ducati tester Michele Pirro, but the stress of racing as well as working through a very busy test schedule has taken its toll on the young Italian. Furthermore, Pirro racing the three flyaways would have meant that testing would have ceased for the three-week duration, and with work in full swing for the 2014 season, that was not time Ducati had to lose.
Who will take Hernandez place at PBM is as yet unknown. Michael Laverty looks set to take Hernandez' ART machine for the rest of the season, while no clear favorite has yet emerged to take over the PBM Aprilia on the other side of the garage.
What this means for Spies' future is as yet uncertain. The Texan has a contract with Ducati for the 2014 season, but Spies' extended absence through injury has created tension in the Pramac team. There is unfounded paddock gossip that if Hernandez adapts well to the Desmosedici, he could take Spies' place next year. That, however, depends on a messy and expensive severance between Ducati and Spies. At the moment, such talk should be rated as improbable, but not entirely impossible.
Below is the press release from the Ignite Pramac team:
Though the factory seats in MotoGP are all filled, the prime seats on the non-factory entries are still open. Top favorites among the riders are the NGM Forward team, with the leased and FTR-kitted Yamaha M1s, and the Aspar team, which will be running factory-backed Aprilias, though not as an official factory team. These four are the most competitive of the non-factory bikes, and any rider dreaming at a shot of a return to a factory ride, with Suzuki in 2015 perhaps, will want to be on board one of these bikes.
At the moment, there are two lynchpins around which all of the rest of the choices revolve. Aleix Esparagaro is the rider garnering the most interest from teams, unsurprisingly given just how competitive the Spaniard has been on the Aspar ART machine. Espargaro's problem is that he already has a contract for 2014, guaranteed by Aspar if he ends the season as the best CRT finisher. Given that he is 41 points of the next CRT rider - Colin Edwards of NGM Forward - not succeeding in that goal looks increasingly unlikely.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after Sunday's thrilling British Grand Prix at Silverstone:
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after the first day of practice at Silverstone:
Though there are plenty of reasons to attend the Silverstone round of MotoGP - the chance to see history being made by Marc Marquez, or hearing the British national anthem once, or perhaps even twice, or seeing the bikes roar through Woodcote and on to Copse, or even the chance to watch a British round of MotoGP without getting wet, as so far, it is predicted to be a dry weekend - but one of the best is the Day of Champions, held on Thursday 29th August, the day before the on-track action begins. It is a very full day of activities to help keep the crowds entertained, and well worth the paltry £15 entrance fee, all of which goes towards helping Riders for Health.
The action centers around the main stage, with a mixture of chat, quizzes, live music, and topped off with the Day of Champions auction. There is also plenty to do in the pits and paddock, as access includes entrance to the otherwise-closed paddock. BBC TV presenters Matt Roberts and Steve Parrish will be hosting the 'Question of Bikes' quiz, where contestants will be asked questions from motorcycle racing's rich history. Legendary Eurosport commentator Julian Ryder will host a chat on stage with some of the top Moto2 and Moto3 riders, which is always fascinating and gives the audience a chance to hear from the stars of tomorrow (and today). And at the end of the day, Roberts and Ryder are joined by Toby Moody and Gavin Emmett to host the Riders for Health auction at which a host of fantastic memorabilia and signed items go on sale. The Day of Champions auction is your best chance of buying something truly unique from your favorite riders. Some of the items up for auction are listed below, but there will be an awful lot more there as well, if past years are a guide.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after Sunday's race at Brno:
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the first day of practice at Brno:
Ben Spies has undergone surgery on both his shoulders in Dallas yesterday. The Ignite Pramac rider had surgery to fix the acromioclavicular joint in his left shoulder he dislocated in a practice crash at Indianapolis, and also had a minor procedure already scheduled for his previously injured right shoulder, to clean out scar tissue, according to a report in US publication Cycle News. Spies posted a picture of himself after surgery on his Twitter page, announcing his surgery, but no official word has come from Ducati or Pramac just yet.
The bad news for Spies was that after further examination, Spies' left shoulder was found to have suffered a grade five separation, or 100% dislocation, rather than the grade three previously diagnosed. The surgery was required to fix the clavicle in place to allow the joint to heal faster. Recovery from such surgery is generally between six and twelve weeks, meaning that the earliest Spies could return would be Aragon.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams, Bridgestone, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway press office after Sunday's race at IMS: