The Spies Enigma: Where Will Ben Spies Be Racing In 2013?

To say that Ben Spies has caused a few surprises in 2012 is one of the larger understatements of the year. Sadly for the Texan, though, those surprises have not come in the form of podiums and race wins, as he himself may have hoped. Rather the opposite, and often through no fault of his own, Spies' 2012 season has been dogged by bad luck, unusual mechanical failures and mistakes. 

The surprises reached their apogee the week before the Red Bull US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca, when Spies announced he would be leaving Yamaha at the end of the 2012 season. That he should be leaving Yamaha was unusual enough - the factory Yamaha ride is probably the most desirable seat in the MotoGP paddock, as the M1 has proven to be the most competitive bike this season - but his choice of media was extraordinary: a post on his Twitter feed, followed by a more conventional (if unusually timed) phone call to Superbikeplanet to explain his decision in a little more detail.

Since that stunning revelation, Spies has stayed almost silent. He has continually played down rumors about where he could be headed for next season, leaving much room for speculation, conjecture and rumor, some reliable, others much less so. So where will Ben Spies be racing in 2013? MotoGP, World Superbikes, or will he even be racing at all?

To answer the last question first, the Texan is almost certain to be racing somewhere - with one small caveat. Early reports suggested Spies was thinking of retiring, but the American was quick to quash such thoughts. The first reports to emerge from outside the Spies camp linked him to a ride in World Superbikes with the BMW Italia team, who will be running BMW's factory effort for 2013. Initially, BMW Italia's team manager Serafino Foti rated the chances of Spies riding for the team at 99%, but by the time the World Superbike paddock alighted in Silverstone, those odds had dropped to "70 to 80%", Foti told Bikesportnews.com.

At Indianapolis, Spies had left American reporters with the impression that he had had enough of the MotoGP paddock, and wanted out. At Brno, he was much less resolute in his rejection of MotoGP. "There is a possibility [of staying in MotoGP] but it is slim," Spies said. "For me, World Superbikes is something I am looking at very strongly and now I am looking as some GP offers but I can assure you nothing is done yet." The key factor would come down to having the right offer: the right support in the right team is what Spies was after. "I don't want to look back in ten years and say maybe I left too soon but to stay is has to be the right scenario, the right package and that's what I am working on right now."

Spies' change of heart seems to have been brought about by talks with Fausto Gresini, owner of the San Carlo Gresini Honda team. Gresini was rumored to have offered Spies a Honda RC213V with factory support, an offer which Spies acknowledged existed. Then on Monday, rumors started emerging of an offer to Spies from Ducati, of a factory Desmosedici inside the Pramac team alongside Andrea Iannone. Ducati are looking at creating a satellite team with factory support, something similar to the situation that existed at Gresini Honda with Marco Simoncelli and Marco Melandri in the past. The "Ducati Junior Team", as the project has been dubbed, would see a team - probably Pramac - run two bikes with factory support and very close to the spec of the bikes used by Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso in the factory team.

But Spies has another option as well, one that would put him in a more difficult situation for 2013, with the promise of a full-factory ride and almost certainly #1 rider status in 2014. Spies has been in talks with Suzuki since Indianapolis over a return to the factory, to help develop the brand new inline four that Suzuki is working on for their return to MotoGP in 2014. Several sources have reported that Suzuki is looking for "a top level rider" to help develop the bike, the problem being that the factory has little to offer for next season. The initial plan was to have wildcards in 2014, but Suzuki bosses visiting Brno for talks with Dorna about their plans played down any chances of wildcards for next year. That would leave Spies racing a Suzuki in World Superbikes for a season - a tough proposition, for the long-in-the-tooth GSX-R1000 has been far from competitive in WSBK this year - while developing the bike at the same time.

So where will Spies finally end up? Leaving the MotoGP paddock is a risk, as he acknowledged himself at Brno. "Honestly, I think if I left there isn't much of a possibility I would be coming back, so it's more looking at the packages we have here now, seeing if it is good enough to fight up front," Spies told reporters. On the other hand, the rides on offer in World Superbikes would put him in a position to be immediately competitive for the championship. What's more if Spies went with either the Suzuki or the BMW WSBK rides, those would be his best chances of making the step back to MotoGP in the near future.

Spies' problem is that time is starting to run short. The World Superbike grid is slowly but surely filling up, and the last few rides in MotoGP are also being taken. It is looking increasingly likely that Scott Redding will end up on the Gresini Honda, with just the details over sponsorship and funding to be filled in - a much simpler proposition, as the money that Redding would have to find to take the ride is probably a tenth of what Spies would want to race the Gresini Honda - and that is if Spies would be willing to accept using Showa suspension, reported to be a stumbling block for the Texan. The Ducati Junior team / Pramac satellite squad looks like Ben Spies' best option for staying in MotoGP for 2013, but as the saga surrounding Cal Crutchlow demonstrated, Ducati take a long time to make a decision, and when they do, the outcome may be very different from what was expected. At Mugello in July, Ducati boss Alessandro Cicognani told MotoMatters.com that he expected to have the Ducati junior team sorted out in two to four weeks: that was now more than six weeks' ago.

While Spies has stayed silent on his deliberations, the biggest hint that he gave came in a (now deleted) tweet on his Twitter feed, saying he would be going 'back where I belong'. That would suggest to most that his preference would be Suzuki, a preference supported by other comments the Texan has made. But that is a very big risk indeed, given that is impossible to judge where the Suzuki MotoGP bike stands in terms of competitiveness, as well as what Spies would do to fill in the season without racing.

Whatever Ben Spies decides to do, he will have to make a decision soon. If he does not, then he could find himself in more trouble than he intended. And that would be a waste of a prodigious talent indeed.

Total votes: 79
Total votes: 256

Back to top

Comments

Won't happen but KS34 has long been pining to manage a team for Suzuki and been rebuffed at every turn.

I think Ben has the potential to be an "alien" but only on the Honda. I just don't see Suzuki fielding that competitive of a bike and I would hate to see him go to Ducati, see above.

I hear there are sponsorship issues, San Carlo doesn't have a product in the US and it doesn't make sense for them to have an American rider, especially an expensive one.

Total votes: 259

Soup's run down of the Spies silly season saga (forgive me) ends with this:

"NBA great and DMG Superbike team owner Michael Jordan has always been a big Ben Spies fan and supporter. In fact, Spies came very close to racing a Yamaha M1 emblazoned with Jordan's colors at one point. One should not discount Jordan when it comes to Spies' future."

On and on and on ...

Lefty

Total votes: 277

... Ben could be on the podium regularly on a GSX-R in WSBK. The '09 R1 wasn't exactly a great bike either, but he was able to make up the difference.

Seems like the odds are stacked against him for a (close to) factory spec Honda at Gresini, although that's what I'd like to see most.

Ducati in GP, I HOPE NOT!

Total votes: 257

If Ben can get Suzuki to commit to 2014, I think that would be the way to go. I would love to see him race one year on a Suzuki in SBK and then come back to Moto GP as their number one rider. Ben will never be the Moto GP world champion, as much as I would love to see it. But to be the number one rider on a prototype team would be huge for him and that can only be realized on the Suzuki. He should jump at this oppertunity. Just as Nicky does for Ducati, Ben could be a huge marketing tool for Suzuki sales in the U.S. This factor cannot be overstated, especially during these economic times when discretionary spending is limited. The GSX-R series of motorcycles are very fine indeed but are up against stiff competition. Any edge they can get would be significant. The Ben factor would be huge, as he is America's best at this time. Go for it Ben, please.

Total votes: 275

How the hell do you know that? If you can see the future we need to have a conversation about some lottery numbers...

Ben Spies going to Suzuki would be the best option for all involved. What's really missing here is some Dorna money to get the factory to support some wildcards for next season. You can test till you're Suzuki blue in the face, but wont ever know where you stack up until you do a race weekend.

Ben Spies talent stays in the series, Suzuki get a top quality rider for their best chance at wins and a championship, and Dorna gets another manufacture on the grid.

Now just put 34 on the helm of the operation so we all can go to sleep at night thinking dreams really can come true in motorcycle racing...

Total votes: 251

So it looks only Ducati Pramac is a move that could keep him in queue for 2014 with additional checking what the hell is that Desmosedici about. The rest is like to take an easy year off and go to WSBK Suzuki just for joy and wait for 2014 to be back or do the bicycle stuff full year effort and be ready for 2014.
Anyway all roads lead to Rome, sorry, to Suzuki. In my opinion Suzuki did all the homework they failed to accomplish in the past. Spies would be the best catalyzer for their rapid outcome. To fail on factory M1 is not a nightmare when there's a possibility to shine on almost factory Desmosedici or almost factory GSX-R or in future with full factory Suzuki motogp bike. To get a podium with any of them is a best way to erase current stage. I see only positives.

In 1993 it was Schwantz, in 2000 it was Roberts Jr. so maybe it's again a question for another American "If I can crack this bike?" if the answer will be 'Yes' then he'll join Rossi and Stoner praise. Last time in 2009 Melandri had a chance to do it with Kawasaki. MotoGP likes this kind of stuff.

Total votes: 251

For whatever reason, I think Ben Spies really likes Suzuki. Even though their bike is not doing much in WSBK this year, it may have to do with all the years racing them over here in the USA. Kevin Schwantz even says things like, "It feels like a Suzuki.", whenever people ask him about riding a bike that is a Suzuki. Ben, being someone that was groomed and mentored by Kevin in alot of ways, seems to have the same loyalty to Suzuki. I could see him doing a World SBK to Motogp deal with them. It might not be a bad thing. There is no way of telling how competitive they will be. But since that is company Ben is very familiar with, I could see him going back, especially after this year.

The Ducati offer scares me. I fear for ANY good rider going to Ducati. With Audi, (Multi time Le Mans winner), behind them, they will have enough at their disposal to become far more efficient in their development. http://superbikeplanet.com/2012/Aug/120830c.htm

Still do not see them being competitive befre 2014. Wherever he goes, I hope he is able to focus and unleash the speed I am used to seeing in him.

If you are an American, it is hard not to root for Ben when he is on. I root for him even when he is off. After the years in AMA, beating Mladin and making Mladin go through mental and physical changes just to beat him, made me a true believer in Ben. Good luck to him

Total votes: 255

My hope is he goes with Gresini if the rumored offer is true, but I also read, probably on here, that Fausto was also very keen to keep Bautista. Who knows.

If it is true, then would it be a 1-year or 2-year deal?

Ideally, in my eyes, Spies would have 1-year deal with Gresini, then re-weigh options for 2014 depending on his results (Suzuki vs. continuing with Gresini).

IMHO he needs to push to be the lead rider in whatever team he lands in. That excludes being Spies Jr. at Ducati.

Shouldn't be too long before we find out.

Total votes: 251

I wouldn't count on bikes or teams that don't exist yet. If a prototype Honda is on the table, that would be the route to go. An RCV should be able to race for top fives with an occasional podium. Better than what he's been able to muster this season and keeps his on the tires that he needs to understand. Do that for a year and if Suzuki are serious, there will be a deal waiting for him in 2014.

Now, if Spies is done with the MGP paddock, that's a different story. As much as he hated travel as a youngster, he's seemed to really taken to globe trotting. WSB may just be more enjoyable for him. If that is the case, some guys just want to have fun (ala Ben Bostrom). It was a pitty for us, but if that's the life they want, so be it.

Finally, if he did end up on a Jordan Suzuki in the AMA. It would be interesting. Josh Hayes is unstoppable right now. Blake Young just seems frustrated. Suzuki needs someone to take it to Yamaha at the momment. The AMA schedule leaves plenty of time for bike riding and such.

Total votes: 255

Until the street bike is redesigned with a fully fly by wire throttle system, the WSB Suzuki is going to stay totally uncompetitive. That is the fact of it. In addition, Suzuki is the Japanese version of Ducati. They are unwilling to change, and have a "not invented here, we don't use it" attitude.
Suzuki hasnt had a Racing engineer in management, or anyone with real clout since Pops Yoshimura passed. I personally don't think spies is much if any better than Hopkins. The Suzuki is just not up to the competition.

Total votes: 267

Sorry but Hopper is one of the most over rated riders of our time.

Total votes: 248

There was a time when I had faith in Hop due to his aggressiveness, but years worth of crashing his brains and body away have taken all faith away. He has been in World SBK a couple of times now and keeps crashing. At some point you would think he would realize these crashes are nothing but his own fault. Ben Spies came in to all new tracks, set pole positions, broke Haga enroute to a World Championship in a rookie year. Hopper is never healthy and crashing his way out of every ride he gets.

Hopper complains bitterly about his bikes and talks shit about teammates (Kenny Roberts Jr when still at Suzuki, who was a fellow American and just a better racer than he was period.) Ben gets results, Hopper was proved to be hollow when Melandri took the same bike that Hop could not keep on two wheels, (kawasaki). A bike that had not been developed from the previous year and scored top 10s and a second place in 2009. The bike was not the greatest, but he did more with that bike than Hopper ever did. Hopper is overrated, was a fan but he lost me YEARS ago.

Total votes: 285

" the factory Yamaha ride is probably the most desirable seat in the MotoGP paddock"

I would say the most desirable seat is with Repsol and has always been, at least in the 4 stroke era. Honda just have deeper pockets than anyone else.

Total votes: 288

In the four stroke era Yamaha has won 5 championships to Honda's 4. Repsol Honda is nothing to sneeze at but Yamaha has out performed them.

Total votes: 268

Always going to be a combination of both but if we look at this years bike. I think clearly the Yamaha is the better of the two. When we get to Valencia that may be a different story.

Total votes: 249

Strange you mention them. They shared a lot early in their careers. Both had raw talent. Too bad they couldn't have shared more. Hopkins too much agression. Spies maybe not enough. I cannot see John walking away from a factory GP ride without a pound of someones flesh in hand.

They are both great lads, just different motivations.

Total votes: 263

Hopkins seem not to be afraid to hit the ground, which has ultimately hurt him A LOT physically. Maybe Ducati needs to talk to him about the junior team ride.

Total votes: 259

If anyone, Hopper should be given the Suzuki MGP/WSB combo ride. I hope Spies won't take it at this stage. As someone said above, Suzuki is also famous for their half-hearted participation and at the moment BS has a lot more to lose than to gain with that project. A competitive Suzuki would be very tempting for the fans in both series, but not gonna happen almost overnight in WSB and in a year and a half in MGP.
I still think if anyone could be competitive on the Ducati, it could be Spies but outside the factory team it is not that assuring. So the Gresini-bike would be cool but I can not imagine Honda give him full support when Pedrosa (with the Repsol chequebook) will be supposed to win the title. Occasional podium possible, more not. However I can see Ducaudi give anything possible to him if he would start beating the factory guys because for them one thing is the most important at the moment: to show their bike is not shit and save face. The rider who will be more competitive than VR will be a hero and be praised by the fans, the MGP-paddock and after all by the factory itself. It could be a disaster, yes...but Spies has as much to lose riding a Ducati, as Dovi. Nothing, if he fails to be in the top6, it will still be the bike (unless Nicky or Dovi starts delviering). I would love seeing him taking it to the Yammie-guys on a Honda but he won't get as good bike as the Repsol guys. Riding around 4-6 on a Honda means almost nothing, do it (or a bit more) on a Ducati and you will be compared to the greatest of our time. Spies is at least as good rider as the 2013 factory Ducati riders but he has something what the other two might lack a bit: raw speed. Anyhow, after a even bad season on the Ducati the Suzuki MGP-offer or a competitive WSBK-ride will still be available for him in 2014.

Total votes: 261

Just a thought but if Spies signed with Suzuki to help develop the 2014 bike but wasn't on the 2013 MotoGP grid he wouldn't be tied down to any testing restrictions for the bike I assume. I know most professional athletes wouldn't want to take a year off but he has the option to just test and develop the 2014 bike all of next year testing from sunrise to sunset if needed to make sure it's towards the front of the grid come 2014. I highly doubt that would happen but I think it's a interesting thought.

Total votes: 229

Weren't those restrictions abandoned from 2012 on? Apart from the 240 allotted tires.

Total votes: 291

I'm not positive but over a year I'm sure they'd go through that many tires just testing so if Suzuki had the money maybe Bridgestone would deliver 500 sets. Who knows?

Total votes: 226

That would be awesome. Legendary, if I may say so. A good rider plagued by bad luck/shunned by his employer, leaves for a year and comes back in full glory on a machine that nobody gave a chance or a thought :))

Total votes: 247

Suzuki will not have up to date Bridgestone tyres to test on in 2013, until the official testing after Valencia 2013. That's only if Suzuki had submitted their entry and is approved to race in 2014.

If Bridgestone is selling their MotoGP tyres on the side, Honda would had unlimited testing...

Total votes: 258

....with Josh Hayes well on his way to his 3rd straight AMA SBK title (for Yamaha) it seems reasonable (though not likely) that if Ben did sign for Suzuki that instead of WSBK he would spend 2013 re-taking the AMA championship that Suzuki owned for so many years prior to 2010. The AMA schedule would allow ample time for testing / developing the 2014 Suzuki MotoGP package. Just a bit surprised I haven't seen anybody else envision this scenerio...

Total votes: 262

In 20 years of watching GP racing I have never seen someone race a Superbike and develop a MotoGP bike at the same time. Not saying it couldn't be done... but a far more likely scenario would be for Spies to race a Suzuki in WSB in 2013 with a view to going back to MotoGP on a GSX-V in 2014.

However, an equally possible scenario is Spies racing a S1000RR in 2013 and going to MotoGP with BMW in 2014.

Total votes: 250

Ben's intentions are clear:"Honestly, I think if I left there isn't much of a possibility I would be coming back."

Sure he could do well in WSBK and AMA, tho with a house in Como and a paycheck of about 3% of what he gets now its beyond probability.

What he lacks is support. Not to put Houseworth down but he did fail Ben. They took too long to sort out the traction control issue and the mechanical failures were beyond bizare. Perhaps KS34 could be the key.

So it's Gresini in 2013 and Suzuki in 2014 on a Schwantz led team. Kevin has more than paid his dues and if it doesn't happen in 2014 it probably never will.

Total votes: 250

" What he lacks is support. Not to put Houseworth down but he did fail Ben. They took too long to sort out the traction control issue and the mechanical failures were beyond bizare. Perhaps KS34 could be the key. "

I like how there is finger pointing towards Spies US crew. So the 3 AMA titles with Yoshimura were just flukes..............

Interesting how his rookie year with Tech 3 yielded comparably
better results than the years with the factory team, where there would have been a much higher degree of input and control from the factory team .

" Never discount the influence of incompetent people in small groups "

Total votes: 241

Geeze Kiwi. How about "The Buck Stops Here." or "If it Ain't Broke Don't Fix It."

Well it is broke. It needs fixing. We will never know if TH wasn't given the proper tools to do his job but he's at the helm. In the sports world if a team fails its usually the manager who goes first. How can you compare AMA, with a set protocol of stock parts with prototype racing? I find it odd you didn't mention WSBK where Ben ran out of gas while leading a race.

As I mentioned, I don't mean to denigrate TH but he was in charge. He's probably a great guy and a great technician but Ben's a great athlete and deserves to be mounted on bikes that don't fall apart under him.

For whatever reason, if he's to continue at this level change is necessary.

Total votes: 268

Hmmm, at least all of them are posibilities where ben's could accomodate the next season.

Gresini
Fausto have intentions to hire him, bautista didnt have the results than fausto expected, also the main sponsor snacks and chips san carlo will not continue the support of gresini until an italian will ascend from moto2 and ride the RC213V, it's more possible than iannone, corsi, corti could ride the bike, and if fausto hire one of those three the sponsor will be happy and things will continue.

Ducati Junior team
things in ducati ins't going good, the abandon of rossi to ducati can open new possibilities and also make the things much worse, the good is for hayden, in this season has show than the ducati can be capable, just matter of time and patiencie, as ill see it's the less possible of all the options.

Suzuki
at least they has show a bike for MGP but WSBK team need help, looks like if ben's return to SBK can be with them with factory support, crescent fixi are doing the things regular.

BMW
because bmw italia will be the main team, one place are contested, him and haslam are possible candidates to be teammate of melandri, BMW are on fire now and if the things continues good, the WSBK champion will be the bavarian factory, also for WSBK is more convenience having more champions, Biaggi, checa, in-way to champion melandri and spies.

Ben's have talent that is out of question, all of these are posibilities now just wait.

Total votes: 232

From the AMA to WSB to Tech3 to his 1st year as a Yamaha MGP Factory Rider... Ben Spies has shown that he's Alien Status capable for sure. When Jorge was out hurt last season, Ben was doing the business especially after he won his 1st MGP race against Casey Stoner and company. He nearly won the last 2011 race against Stoner. For 2013 on though, something terrible has happened to Spies and bad luck can't be the blame for most of it. What's really going on at Yamaha, Ben? Inquiring minds are dying to know! Suzuki and Ducati are still working to be competitive so going with either of them is a bad idea. If Ben goes back to WSB, the BMW would be his best opportunity to be on a competitive winning motorcycle. Melandri and company have really made the s1000rr a grid killer. BMW to MotoGP with Melandri and Spies would be a mind blower. But whatever Ben decides to ride next season, will we see the Ben of old? A rider who truly makes anything he rides excel like creme that rises to the top! Ben 'Elbowz' Spies Rises... for 2013!

Total votes: 261

Is there any reason Ben cant leave and go testing the Suzuki full time for a year ?
Not a full time GP rider on Not a GP bike
Is that legally possible within the rules ?
as far as I can tell the rules ban Riders testing bikes that could be raced in GP
But if its got lights ?
Maybe he could just go and set the Suzuki up for 2014 ?

Total votes: 248

I love the idea of Ben coming back with Suzuki in Motogp. Heck having Suzuki back would a great to.

I just have nagging doubts about the risk Ben may take in competing in WSB before he gets back into Motogp. One wrong more, or worse, some one elses wrong move and hes injured, for effectively little or no return if the GXIR is not competitive.

Total votes: 259

So little has been said of what happened with Yamaha, most notably and understandably by Spies himself. It's strange, as his run of bad luck was progressing and everyone was saying he had to watch out or the Tech3 riders would poach his seat there were public statements that Yamaha intended to resign Ben and he said he was waiting to resign. If I remember correctly didn't they expect a resigning by Laguna Seca? Then what happened? Yes his crap streak (no pun intended) continued but there was some sudden seeming 180º by both Ben and Yamaha but first mentioned by Ben. Ben announces he's leaving by choice and that it was a positive thing. How could that be? Unless it's for a Repsol seat there is no better place to be in GP than right where he is. Every other choice of bike is less competitive and I'm sure every other contract is less lucrative. I smell some internal Yamaha politics higher up than the pit box. Both Lin Jarvis and Jorge said they would prefer to continue the team as it was but Ben suddenly decides a factory Yamaha ride is not where he wants to be? I think I've heard Ben say it doesn't have anything to do with Valentino but now we know that Vale had spoken to Yamaha much earlier in the season than most guessed. I'm not one for conspiracies but at least at the head office level I think the coming back of Rossi and the leaving of Spies have some relation.

Total votes: 265

Something doesn't add up with what has happened to Spies on track this year when race time comes.

Total votes: 233

Rumor has it now Ben is almost certain for the Ducati Pramac Junior Team on a full factory desmosedici, should be old news by now.

Total votes: 257

Okay, at least next year we will get to see what happens if we remove the suspective part (Yamaha) , hopefully the Duke will be better sorted out or Ben will make it turn with pure Elbow power.

Total votes: 269

From factory Yamaha to any Ducati? Ben's shit luck continues. Predict it's a 1 year place holder contract to keep him on a bike in the series until Suzuki have something to put under him.

Total votes: 248

Time for Ben to make up his mind if he wants to compete at the highest level in MotoGP or become a development rider. Very few have the oportunity and talent at his age to throw it all in the crapper. The choice is pretty plain to me and that's to go with the Honda option with Gresini. He'd have to take a salary hit for the time being but I doubt he needs the money. I'd forget Ducati until they improve the bike. Full factory support with Yamaha seems over. Suzuki isn't ready. I'm starting to question if Ben's competitive drive is still there and the politics of MotoGP shouldn't be an issue as a racer? Altho WSB provides a better show, why go back?

Total votes: 215