Ben Spies Retires From Racing,

Ben Spies is to retire from motorcycle racing. The shoulder injuries the Texan suffered in the past year have cast doubts over whether his shoulders will ever be strong enough to race a motorcycle again, and so Ducati and Spies have come to a mutual agreement for Spies to terminate their contract after just 1 year. Spies' retirement leaves the second seat at Pramac Ducati vacant for 2014.

The trouble started for Spies during his difficult second year with the factory Yamaha team. After a series of strange mechanical issues and a few crashes, which led to his decision to leave the team, Spies had a massive highside in the wet at Sepang, in which he badly damaged his right shoulder. He had surgery to fix that injury late 2012, in the hope of being ready to test at Sepang with the Pramac Ducati team. Riding that soon after such major surgery proved to be a mistake, and after the Austin round of MotoGP, Spies decided to pull out. A brief return at Mugello followed, and then a return to full fitness at Indianapolis in August. Another huge highside damaged saw Spies damage his left shoulder, and be forced to pull out for the rest of the season.

Spies retirement brings to an end a spectacularly successful career. The Texan won three straight AMA Superbike championships against Mat Mladin with the Yoshimura Suzuki team, before moving to World Superbikes with Yamaha. Spies impressed everyone in WSBK, taking the title at the first attempt, on race tracks he had never ridden before. A move to MotoGP followed, where he spent a relatively successful year with the Tech 3 team, before moving up to the factory Yamaha team in 2011. His first year with the factory Yamaha team saw him win at Assen, and he looked set to make another step in 2012, but a disastrous year followed. Spies joined Ducati for 2013, but barely rode.

What Spies will do next is unknown, but the Texan already has several business interests, including the Stackhouse burger restaurant in Dallas. He also owns a cycling team, in which he is actively involved. The press release does not make it entirely clear whether Spies intends to retire from motorcycle racing permanently, but in a candid and fascinating interview with Cycle World magazine, Spies makes it clear that he understands he will never be able to race at the highest level again, and he does not want to just circulate making up the numbers.

With Spies out, speculation is now commencing over who will take the second seat at Pramac Ducati. What seems clear is that the bike on offer will not be a 2014 prototype, to be raced by Cal Crutchlow, Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone next season, but a 2013 Desmosedici run under the Open rules, meaning the bike will have more engines, more fuel and run the spec Dorna software. Eugene Laverty has been linked to the ride, but the package offered meant he had no interest. Paddock rumor currently puts either Danilo Petrucci or Yonny Hernandez on the bike. With Hernandez already filling in for Spies, the Colombian is likely to be favorite for the ride.

EDIT: After this was published, Cycle World magazine posted their superb interview with Spies on their website (linked above). A great read, and fascinating insight into the mind of a rider when he retires.

Below is the official press release issued by Ducati on Spies' retirement:


Ducati and Ben Spies announce the American’s retirement from racing competition

  • Spies announces retirement after a successful career in Superbike and MotoGP
  • Decision taken jointly by Ducati and the Texan rider
  • Retirement prompted by doubts about physical ability to race next year

Borgo Panigale (Bologna, Italy), October 26, 2013 - Ducati Motor Holding and Ben Spies announced today that the American will not be racing in 2014 after the parties reached agreement to resolve Ben’s current contract with the Italian racing manufacturer. The 29-year-old Texan had signed a two-year agreement with Ducati at the end of last season to race in MotoGP in 2013 and 2014 as part of the factory-supported Ignite Pramac Racing Team.

Ben has been sidelined for most of this season due to an injury to his right shoulder sustained in October 2012 while riding for another manufacturer team. While he began 2013 racing with Pramac, it quickly became clear that he was not fully healed from his injury and needed to undergo further rehabilitation on his shoulder. Unfortunately, on his return to racing at Indianapolis in August, Ben had another setback when he suffered a season-ending crash during practice.

The resulting operations on both shoulders have left Spies feeling that his physical ability to ride next year remains in question and a decision was jointly made by Ducati and Ben to release Ben from any requirement to race in 2014.

The 2009 World Superbike Champion, three-time AMA Superbike Champion and MotoGP race winner announced his retirement from the sport in the following way: “I had such high hopes for racing for Ducati, and Ducati has been incredibly supportive of me during this challenging year, so I am tremendously disappointed that I have not been able to fulfill my personal goals and team goals with Ducati. I want to thank everyone from racing organizations, factories, teams and all my fans for helping me and supporting me throughout my career. I never dreamed that I would reach the level of success that I have over the past 20 years of racing, but the time has come to stop and I do so with great sadness.”

Spies’ manager/mother Mary Spies added: “Wherever Ben has raced over the years—from AMA Superbike to World Superbike to MotoGP—he has always felt the warmth and appreciation of the organizers, circuits, teams and fans. We are so grateful to them for their support.”

Ducati MotoGP Project Director Paolo Ciabatti declared: "We had high expectations when Ben joined Ducati in MotoGP this year, and we really hoped that he would fully recover from his Indianapolis crash injuries and continue to race for us in the future. However we understand the reasons for his decision and respect them. It is really a shame for our sport that Ben will not be racing anymore, because in our opinion he is one of the most talented riders in the world. We will miss him and wish him all the best for his future life."

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Comments

Very sorry to see Spies' MotoGP career end this way. So much promise, so much potential, and so little results (at the MotoGP level). But still, as the press release says, a very successful career in AMA and SBK, and a GP victory to cap it off. And Ben has made a lot of money along the way, and probably a hefty settlement from Ducati as well. I wish him all the best for a complete recovery, and maybe more racing to come in the future.

Total votes: 178

Why would Ducati need to give Ben a "settlement"? He quit.

Total votes: 177

...realistically Ducati probably canned him, hence the settlement. 'Retiring' allows both parties to save face.

Total votes: 172

This could very well be what happened. Ben had a contract for next year, so if Ducati wanted him out or in WSBK, they were going to have to pay. There's always a buy-out clause in these things. The retirement allows them both to avoid a lot of negative PR and awkward questions. It also allows Spies to get paid while he heals.

There has been talk for a few weeks that Spies' injuries were so bad that he would probably be forced to sit out the 2014 season at a minimum. And while I question his desire to continue racing motorcycles, none of us can pretend to know what's in his head and heart. It's certainly possible that he comes back if his rehab goes well and he's healthy enough. Time will tell.

Total votes: 163

I speculated that Ducati bought out the 2014 contract because the wording of the press release implies very strongly that it went down that way. And that is how it normally happens when an employer and a contracted employee reach a "mutual decision" to part ways.

Total votes: 166

Ben's results his 1st year in MotoGP were STRONG. I was very impressed. What he did in WSBK is Alien material and as amazing to me as what Marquez is doing this season. He hadn't even ridden at most of those tracks. Take another peek at those Tech 3 races folks. His downslide had VERY little to do with the Ducati, more to do with his experiences with the factory Yamaha team (which was bizarro).
I am saddened if Spies is not back to WSBK for 2015 or becoming a big part of Suzuki's MotoGP project...

Total votes: 168

I think Bens loyalty to his former AMA crew chief Tom Houseworth hurt his career. Ben needed someone with much more MotoGP experience in that important role and it effected his results and meant he was left trying to override the bike on race day way too much. Really think we never saw the best of Ben in MotoGP.

Total votes: 159

I still don't understand what happened, but Ben's been 'Checked Out' for some time. Calling it 'Retirement' just makes it official. :(

Total votes: 177

It's too bad he had to retire this way. He has so much potential.

With the exception of Marquez, Spies and Simoncelli were the most talented riders to enter the top flight in the past 4 years.

The sport is left the poorer...

Total votes: 162

I can imagine what momma negotiated for Ducati to free up that seat. Looking forward to see what he accomplishes with that cycling team.

Total votes: 183

Talk about "not catching a break".....

A seat problem at Qatar, visor problem at Le Mans, fall at Catalunya while taking the lead, tyre issues at Assen, food poisoning at Mugello, a broken swingarm at Laguna Seca, engine failure at Indianapolis, clutch problems and a crash at Brno, brake problems leading to a fall at Motegi and then the shoulder injury in the wet Sepang race.

To accomplish what he did in WSBK 2009, on tracks he'd never been on....proved he's very fast with buckets of potential.

2009 was the last year I watch WSBK with any real interest (a little biased because I'm from the U.S., but still)

Bummer.....

Total votes: 186

Ben insisted on having Houseworth. It was a comfort but also a hindrance. The hindrance cost him his spot at Yamaha.

Ben also fell to the Motogp politics. Ben, Colin and Nicky all have been on the short end of the stick in a few factory seats.

Basically Dorna says: Yes we want you because you have talent but more importantly because of your passport. Aside from that we need champions who butter the Dorna bread/bring in viewership revenue - Spanish/Rossi.

Total votes: 153

... disappointed and sorry for Ben that he's injured himself beyond repair to compete anymore. Probably one of the most physical superbike riders of all time, I was quietly hoping he'd head back to WSB and reestablish himself as one of the, if not THE best American rider to race in the series. I've little doubt he had another championship or two up his sleeve.

Total votes: 166

I think racing was very personal with Spies, much like Stoner. Not that Ben had a choice like Casey, but outside of the racing he didn't seem too invested. He didn't want to be in the spotlight or involved in word games.

But still, he was an awesome talent and an overall nice guy. His record is still better than most.

PS: I credit him a 2nd win at Valencia. Stoner & Honda stole it from him. Also, what about Houseworth?

Total votes: 183

I also feel like he won that race, but the Yamaha let him down on the run to the line.

Total votes: 183

That means that you crossed the line first. He didn't win that race. Stoner won it. But but but...the Honda.... please.

Total votes: 185

that Ben Spies retired. That man was the most talented American rider to come along in YEARS. I still would love to know what happened at Yamaha behind the scenes. That second year something changed mentally in him. Beyond the broken bike stuff, there was something wrong from the beginning of the year. Watching that year to this one where he just threw himself off the bike convinced me that he may retire. His head just was not in it anymore. Wish him all the best. His full potential will never be known.

Total votes: 177

this coming, but not surprised. ben did an awesome job in the broadcasting booth. the insight he had on the race he did was bang on and i wouldn't mind seeing him venture into that aspect of the sport. i think the bigger question remains though... what is momma spies gonna do?

Total votes: 182

Wow. What a huge disappointment this guy has been to American fans. After showing so much promise, after so much success, to just totally break down like he did...That factory Yamaha was the worst thing that happened to him. I've never seen a rider actually get asked publicly to stay home if he wasn't gonna give 100%. And it was downhill from there.
This guy let down a LOT of fans, and he and his mom burned a LOT of bridges.
Good riddance man. Have fun racing bicycles.

Total votes: 196

could possibly be as disappointed as Ben Spies himself. An extremely competitive,dedicated and determined rider who refused to back down from the Mladin dominance. Then blitzed World Superbike in his first year. Nuff said. MotoGP did not work out as planned and their will always be unanswered questions as to just what occurred at Yamaha,where they nearly killed him.But Ben need apoligize for nothing. His fans will always be his fans and his accomplishments speak for themselves.....

Total votes: 149

I think that there was a lot going on behind the scenes that we probably never will know. I think that it was a bad choice for Ben to keep mama Spies around when he went to GP. There's just so much politics when you get to this level in any form of sport that you need to have someone there that has the knowledge to manage it properly, without a personal connection and personal feelings getting in the way. I don't think she did a bad job, but having family that manages you will always turn out to be bad press and hard feelings when you have to stick your foot down on an issue. People are always going to say "she's only doing it because she's his mom". He should have taken that aspect out of the equation.

Total votes: 186

Careers destroyed by Ducati this year. First Checa, and now Spies. What a shame, especially for American MotoGP fans. I look forward to seeing Nicky Hayden crush the Ducatis next year on a production Honda.

Total votes: 161

What I enjoyed most about Ben was that after beating Mat three years in a row, he moved on to bigger competition, unlike Mat who chose to remain in the U.S. to cherry pick for money. Going to europe like other american champions from the past had done, was what being a champion is all about. To win the SBK championship in his first year tells you all you need to know about Ben's skill and resolve. Watching him race that year was the best year of race viewing I will probably ever witness. He's a well spoken guy and I enjoyed every interview I heard him give. I thought he did an excellent job adding color the one of the MotoGP broadcasts this year and hope they offer him more oppertunities in the future. I think he has made a wise decision to retire."This guy let down a LOT of fans, and he and his mom burned a LOT of bridges." What a joke. Ben gave everything he had to the sport, including his health. He did his best. It just didn't work out as planned. What more can anyone reasonably expect? Best of luck to you, Ben.

Total votes: 168

"unlike Mat who chose to remain in the U.S. to cherry pick for money"

I think Mladin has stated he came to the US, and stayed, so as not to force his family to live out of a suitcase. I'm not a big fan of the guy, but that is admirable I think.

Total votes: 171

Ben's year in WSBK was a wonderful time for Americans and we hoped the years in MoToGP would be as exciting but that was not the case and his exit from the factory Yamaha team kind of spelled it out: he was not willing to take the risks the front runners were.

Total votes: 155