In an exclusive interview with Stephen English Ben Spies admitted that he never felt that he was fast enough to be a consistent championship challenger in MotoGP.
The American, who won the 2009 World Superbike championship Andrea Dovizioso 2011 Dutch MotoGP, commented that looking back on his career he stayed in the US for too long racing in the AMA championship.
“I basically came to Europe a little too late to be able to do more things but I can look back and not be upset with anything,” said Spies, forced to retire at the end of 2013 due to shoulder injuries. “I definitely miss racing but knowing for sure that there’s nothing that I can do to come back and be better I’m not upset about it and I still love watching it on TV and I’m still involved in it. But knowing that I can’t be there because it’s out of my control makes it easier for me.”
Spies added that while he felt ready to leave for Europe earlier in his career, he never had the drive to have to be in MotoGP. Instead his decision to race in Europe came because people within his camp felt that it was necessary to leave the American scene and race in Europe.
“I was probably ready to go at the end of 2006 and definitely at the end of 2007. I went to WSBK and really enjoyed it, it was really fun, and then I went to MotoGP. I went to Europe after AMA but I never really had ambitions of going to Europe, I was just racing in America. But after I won AMA three times everyone said that I needed to go to Europe, so I went to Europe and I was able to win in 2009. After that I was on the fence of going to GP or not. Everyone else was like, ‘you need to go to GPs’ so I went and did GPs.”
While Spies feels he never got the best out of himself in MotoGP, and declares ‘I didn’t have it to win a championship’ on his day he proved he could beat the best in the world.
“I can say that I never clicked on the bike in MotoGP and never got the most out of myself there, but I also know that when I look at Jorge, Casey and Marc – those fastest guys – that on my day I could beat them. I did it at Assen and I was up there a couple of times going for a win, but I also know that when it came to it I didn’t have it to win a championship and I can say that.
“Maybe if I was there a couple of years I could have had that one year chance – like Gibernau or Nicky. But I wasn’t a guy that could line up every year and go for the championship and I can admit that.
“The reason that I can admit that is that I’ve seen so many riders after they retire say that if they’d done this or that differently that they could have won that. It pissed me off so much when I was a kid of 16 or 18 years old, so that’s why I said that anything that I can control I’d do and it would mean that I wouldn’t have any regrets.
“If anyone followed me in my career, starting from when I was 15 until last year, I didn’t dominate in anything. The only season I dominated was 2009 in WSBK. I had to fight to find ways to win every year. I was never the guy setting the pace. I didn’t have the most natural talent, like Casey did or Marc, and I had to work my ass off to do it. That’s why I can understand that after going to GP that I gave it everything that I had.
“At the end of the day speed-wise I know that even if I went two years earlier the only thing that I missed was maybe one title in the right time at the right place, but I know that speed-wise I wasn’t fast enough to be a two or three time champion. Top five or six in the world I can see that for sure, but fastest guy in the world? That’s hard to do and me knowing that wasn’t quite possible and deep down I know that. That’s important and that’s why I can live with it.”
While winning a title eluded him Spies can now look back on his career without feeling regrets with his AMA and WSBK titles clearly defining moments of his career but his performance when winning at Assen stands out as one of the days when Spies felt unbeatable:
“I can live with knowing that on the right day I could win. We did that at Assen and at Valencia we could have won too with Casey and I know that when things were right, like at Assen, that I could win. Casey didn’t have to win that race in Assen because of the championship but it was one of those days, and all the top riders know those days, where it didn’t matter what happened.
“If Casey had have tried to go faster I could have gone faster and on that day I wasn’t going to be beaten. It’s good to know that on those days that I could beat the fastest but it wasn’t like that week in and week out. I’m big enough to know that and that’s why I’m content with all the stuff that we did and it was a pretty good career.”
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