The fact that Kevin Schwantz believes Ben Spies will win a race in his first season, as we reported over the weekend, should hardly come as a surprise, given Schwantz' long association with the young Texan. Spies excellent times at the first test of the year at Sepang confirmed that the Texan is making the necessary progress towards that goal, but most observers regard it as a little too early to tell.
To get the view of Ben Spies' team manager on the question, MotoMatters.com spoke with Herve Poncharal, and put Schwantz' bold claim to the Frenchman. The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 manager was much more cautions than Spies' mentor and former world champion Schwantz. "Kevin obviously has a lot of confidence in Ben," Poncharal said. "Obviously you can never rule out the possibility of a win. Colin came very close to winning at Donington last year," Poncharal said, but the task ahead was not simple. "I really hope Kevin is right, but winning on a regular basis is not easy."
Before Spies can beat the Fantastic Four, he first has to catch them, Poncharal pointed out. "The first step is to stay with top four, then to try and beat them. But to stay with them is already tough," the Frenchman told MotoMatters.com.
The recent test at Sepang had proved that the Tech 3 team had the necessary tools to attempt to beat the Aliens. Both Edwards and Spies had been very impressed with the 2010 Yamaha YZR-M1, Poncharal said. The team, and especially Edwards, had had some concerns over the effect of the changes that were needed for the engine to deal with the new engine limits. The first iteration of the long-life engine Yamaha produced in the summer of 2009, which only had to last for a little over a race and a half, had been significantly down on power. The new version, which will have to last three full race weekends, is much better. "After Brno last year, Colin was not happy with the engine, it was much weaker, so we didn't know what to expect," Poncharal said. "But at Sepang, we have been discovering an incredible engine and an incredible bike. This is the most powerful engine Yamaha have made, more powerful than the engine at the beginning of '09, when there were no limits. The engine has a lot of bottom power and a lot of torque. It is really a lot like a 990 engine," Poncharal enthused.
It wasn't just the engine that Spies and Edwards were pleased with, though. The entire package of the Yamaha is very strong, according to the Tech 3 team manager: "We are amazed with Yamaha Racing, they have produced an engine with reliability and an incredible character and good power. The character goes very well with the chassis."
Whether Spies will learn fast enough to win a race in his first full season as a MotoGP rider remains to be seen. If he doesn't, it won't be because of the machinery he is on.