Silly Season Update: Scott Redding's Prospects, Yamaha's Leased Engines, And Who Will Buy A Honda?

The Dutch TT at Assen looks like being a very busy few days for everyone looking for a ride next year. The end of June has been earmarked as a deadline for all sorts of negotiations, from rider contracts to bike projects. Decisions will be made and contracts - or at least letters of intent - will be signed. A lot of paperwork should get done by the time the trucks roll out of the paddock on Sunday, heading for Germany and the Sachsenring.

Though most of the prototype rides are already wrapped up, there are still a few seats open, and some interesting and major changes could be on the way. The focal point for the future, and the key to all of the moves for next year is Scott Redding. The young Briton has raised his game in 2013, elevating himself to both the favorite for the 2013 Moto2 title, and hot property for MotoGP next season. Redding's prospects went from a possible ride on a Honda production racer with Marc VDS, on a relatively limited budget, to factories reconsidering their current contracts to see if they can make room for the Gloucestershire youngster.

Redding's options are still very open, the only limit the existing contracts the factories have. All three manufacturers would be keen to get their hands on him, with Ducati the current favorite to secure his services. Yamaha's hands are perhaps most tied, especially as Cal Crutchlow appears to be drawing ever closer to renewing his contract with the Tech 3 team, possibly including some kind of additional support from the factory. Redding could only join Yamaha if Bradley Smith could be persuaded to step aside, but the Englishman's contract looks to be pretty watertight so far.

Redding's chances at Honda look better. Livio Suppo has shown a keen interest in the Marc VDS rider, and though all four Honda seats are currently taken, either Alvaro Bautista or Stefan Bradl could find themselves being elbowed out of a ride to make way for the Englishman. Both Bautista and Bradl have contracts with HRC, but performance clauses could be invoked to move them aside. Redding was in the frame for the Gresini ride last year, and that would be the logical spot to put him for 2014. The risk Redding faces is that if he does go to Gresini to replace Bautista, he could find himself with the same conditions the Spaniard currently has, to serve as a test mule for Showa and Nissin. Given Redding's lack of experience, that would not make much sense, either for him, or for Honda.

The best option Redding has is with Ducati, however. Redding impressed the Italian factory in testing last year, when he was consistently faster than Andrea Iannone at the tests the two men attended. Redding came close to a deal to ride a Ducati for 2012, but a series of miscommunications with Ducati management saw Redding and Marc VDS walk away from the deal. With the takeover of Ducati by Audi, top management at the Italian factory has changed, and the possibility has opened up again. The most likely scenario appears to be that Marc VDS will take over at least one of the Pramac bikes, though running both of them also remains an option. Currently, Ducati foots the bill almost entirely for the Pramac operation, and the factory has been less than impressed with the way the team has been run. Having Marc VDS run the team - and help pay some of the bills - would both ease the financial strain, and bring a staff of experienced MotoGP technicians in to run the team. Almost everyone in the Marc VDS Racing team already has experience in the class, with Redding's crew chief Pete Benson former crew chief to Nicky Hayden during his championship season.

If the Pramac deal does not go through, then Redding's fallback position could be to enter on a leased Yamaha engine and Kalex chassis. The Marc VDS team already has a strong relationship with Kalex, after the team switched to the German chassis manufacturer at the beginning of last season. The Kalex / Yamaha option is probably the best of the non-prototype rides available, given the support which will come from Yamaha. Not only will the engine spec be very strong - Yamaha have promised to deliver an engine very close to the satellite spec - but the Japanese factory is likely to support chassis manufacturers in designing frames for the bikes, a prerequisite if the bikes are to be competitive.

Time is running out for this option, however. Kalex have told interested teams, including Marc VDS and the Pons team, that they will need to begin work on designing the chassis in July, which means that contracts need to be signed by the end of June. The costs are known: around 800,000 euros for the lease of the Yamaha engines, which includes three motors and two rebuilds, and 200,000 euros for the chassis. But that does not include research and development. That is a cost to be borne separately, and as yet, no figures have been named. It will be a significant sum, however, likely to be a multiple of the cost of a chassis.

The cost of development could well be the obstacle which prevents Sito Pons from making a return to MotoGP. Pons has been in talks with other teams - most notably Marc VDS - trying to persuade them to go with the Kalex option, and share the cost of chassis development as widely as possible. Right now, Pons looks like being on his own, unless the Marc VDS deal with Ducati falls through.

The Yamaha engine lease option is popular, however. Performance should not be an issue for the engines, as the 24 liters of fuel they are to be allowed should compensate for being forced to use the spec electronics. It should also provide a genuine benchmark for the advantage the factories have with their proprietary electronics: if the leased Yamaha is anywhere near competitive, then electronics will not be as important a factor as the factories believe. One of the biggest threats to performance will be in the garage of the teams themselves, however. Each leased engine will come with a Yamaha engineer, who will be in charge of managing the engines. That engineer will have the ability to control maximum revs, and with it, power output. Just as happens in the satellite teams, power will be limited, in the name of ensuring reliability. Not by much, but possibly just enough.

Both the Forward team and Aspar are looking at Yamaha engines, though the two teams are engaged with different frame builders. Forward are in talks with FTR to build a chassis for the Yamaha, an option which current Forward rider Colin Edwards is extremely keen to pursue. Edwards has given high praise to the British engineering firm, appreciating the feel of the FTR chassis he currently rides in the class. Aspar, meanwhile, are in talks with Suter, to have the Swiss chassis builder provide them with frames for Yamaha's engines. But the interest of Aspar could just be a political gambit, aimed at putting pressure on Aprilia to step up and provide a more powerful engine for 2014.

Aprilia appear to be in two minds about their participation next year, keen to continue the excellent progress they have made throughout the year. Aleix Espargaro has consistently run with the satellite Ducatis, and has occasionally threatened the satellite Hondas as well. The chassis is good, the engine is sufficient, and the Aprilia electronics package, developed in World Superbikes, is more than good enough to get close to the prototypes. But if Aprilia want to keep using their own software in 2014, they would have to compete as an MSMA entry, which would mean managing with just 5 engines and 20 liters of fuel. The RSV4 engine in its current state is simply not able to do so; perhaps it could be made to manage with the fuel, but managing the fuel and the reliability is beyond the scope of Aprilia's MotoGP race program.

That means that Aprilia would have to switch to the Magneti Marelli electronics, a system which at the moment, is lagging behind Aprilia's proprietary system. But Marelli is making large steps forward throughout the season, and with Michael Laverty riding the PBM machine, they are gaining useful data on running the RSV4 engine with the spec electronics. Aprilia have to decide whether they are willing to become just a chassis and engine supplier, and abandon MotoGP as a platform for electronics development.

When Honda announced their production racer, a dumbed down version of their RC213V, it was widely assumed that this would be the weapon of choice for the current CRT teams. Even now, speaking to senior HRC staff like Livio Suppo, they will tell you that they fully expect to sell all five production racers to MotoGP teams. However, speak to the current CRT teams, and they are far from convinced. Though the production racer's chassis should be impeccable, teams are sceptical about just how competitive the bike will be. Steel valve springs will rule out high engine speeds, and the level of performance promised has not impressed the teams.

One current CRT team member told me they had been looking at the Honda racer, but that it was simply too expensive for the performance on offer. "Honda told us performance would be about 7% down on the prototype," the CRT team member said. "But that is exactly where we already are with our CRT bike." What's more, the team already owns the bikes, and can compete again next year with almost the same bikes with just a small additional cost for upgrades to the latest spec. They already have money invested in bikes, and the spec of the production racer does not offer sufficient gains to persuade them to make the change. They would still find themselves fighting for places 10 to 15, but be 2 million euros or more out of pocket. Instead, they would rather invest in team infrastructure, and improving what they already have.

At least Honda's production racer has a longer deadline. HRC is going ahead with the project anyway, and bikes will be provided at the Valencia test. Given the fact that development work is the hardest part, actually producing the appropriate numbers should be easy. Whether that numbers is the maximum of five, as promised, or just a couple, we will see later in the year.

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Redding is pretty good, but surely not the kind of guy to warrant ousting a proven rider for? He needed the rules to change to become a contender, and since there's no minimum combined weight in MotoGP it doesn't seem clear cut he will fare any better than Iannone. Let him try to beat Espargaro first.

Then again, what do people think the chances are Rossi will retire at the end of the year? I reckon it could happen if he has another winless season. That would blow the whole market wide open...

Oh, that wasn't my intention. I simply mean to compare them, Iannone and Redding both having a few wins in Moto2 under their belts. I see no reason to believe Redding is a better rider than Iannone.

While I would love to see an American challenging for the championship there doesn't seem to be anyone capable of challenging for the title now or in the near future (ie 5 years or more) and it would seem logical to replace Ben Spies instead of Iannone.

Spies has a two year factory Ducati contract. He won't be going anywhere. The person under threat would be Hayden. Spies could easily be moved to the factory team or Scott could get that ride.

Spies riding injured is hardly what I'd call dead weight. I like Nicky but he was lucky in '06 and has win a total of 3 races since '04. Every year he's been on a factory bike. I know the Duc is a hard bike but Dovi is constantly out performing him. Unless Nicky starts beating Dovi in a dominate fashion, I fear this may be his last on a factory bike. And maybe in GP.

I understand that Spies is injured but not racing or testing equals dead weight. As far as Hayden's 06 season he out performed everyone else including Rossi (arguably at the top of his game) over the length of the season and yes there is always a certain amount of luck involved in anyone ever winning a championship.

To take the 2006 title, Hayden rode better than:

and others

I really don't understand why people undersell Hayden's world title. He earned it through having superior skill and consistency over a season, it's as simple as that.

He needed a rule change to compete with very light riders. With GP bikes producing 230+ HP. I don't think that's going to be a problem.

Rossi could retire, but won't. He knows that he still has the speed and he damn sure hasn't forgot how to fight. While it's not ideal at the moment, he is getting closer. Tenth by tenth.

These are the sort of articles that make me want to visit this website every day, well done David.
If the electronics are such an expensive part of MotoGP racing, cant Dorna just Ban them?

They tried last year. After a lot of knob swinging we have ended up with yet another two tier system.

Level 1: Spec ECU, factory software, 5 engines, 20 litres of fuel.
Level 2: Spec ECU & Software, 8 engines, 24 litres of fuel.

Factories, at least HRC & Yamaha but possibly Ducati to put Aprilia in their place, have again been the tail that wags the dog & made sure its a four bike championship to suit their needs.

If all bikes ran in level 2 spec then the battle opens up to many more bikes & riders, good for the fans, good for the riders - anyone really think that MM93 & JL99 wouldn't like to triumph over CC35 & AE41 on a level playing field? The factories however use GP for marketing & corporate pride so love paying to tilt the balance.

with the times these guys are pushing, and the level of grip the tires are producing, you'd be seeing a dramatic increase in high sides with reduced electronics.

Never mentioned reduced electronics. I was proposing all bikes using the spec ECU in the same way all bikes use spec tyres.

"The costs are known: around 800,000 euros for the lease of the Yamaha engines, which includes three motors and two rebuilds, and 200,000 euros for the chassis. But that does not include research and development. "

So 800,000 Euros gets you 3 motors and 2 rebuilds, what does the 200,000 euros for the chassis get you? A single chassis? Or a set for the standing 2 bike per rider set up?

The R&D bit is confusing to me. Is that for the initial R&D before a single chassis is delivered? Or is that ongoing R&D for upgrades throughout the season?

"The Kalex / Yamaha option is probably the best of the non-prototype rides available"

If the project goes through, it will be a purpose built racing engine in a purpose built racing chassis much in the same way as a factory "prototypes". If anything these bikes would be more exclusive and more "prototype" (in the literal sense of the word) as fewer examples/variations would be built and discarded during testing and development....

Yeah, exactly. This is pretty much what Kenny Roberts' team did a few years ago. They built their own chassis and leased a V5 engine from Honda and did really well considering. This was pre-CRT days so how would they have been allowed to run if that wasn't considered a prototype, right?

The difference now it seems is the electronics package that that goes along with the engine, or is not included however the case may be. Either way it's not OEM electronics, so it's still a prototype.

IMO, this is the way the all the teams should be.

He leased a Honda engine, and then raced with and beat Hondas a few times. I wonder if this is the reason Honda will only lease 'production racers' rather than prototype engines, because they didn't like having a customer compete so closely with them? In which case is all this 'production racer' malarky really just a cynical way to stop Ezpeleta completing his CRT and electronics limiting plans, whilst also not having to actually supply anyone with affordable and competitive Honda equipment?

I've wondered from the start who in their right mind would pay the better part of a million euro for a valve spring 'production racer' that won't ever beat the prototypes. At least with the CRT machines you have control of the development, and with a million Euro you could possible develop something at least as quick as a HRC prod racer.

"... and beat Hondas a few times. I wonder if this is the reason Honda will only lease 'production racers' rather than prototype engines, because they didn't like having a customer compete so closely with them?"

They actually would have WON a race had KRJR realized there was still one lap left in the race. LOL oops!

But I'm not so sure they're afraid of getting beaten, it's still their brand. Roberts team didn't become fully competitive until Honda sent a guy over to work with them and sort out the engine position to get the proper chassis balanced.. so that was nice of them. lol I mean, Honda factory has been beaten quite a bit by their satellite teams when Sete was riding for Gresini. I believe Marco won a few times as well on the Gresini Honda. So it's not completely unheard of.

I'm wondering how much money has been put into the Aspar ART bike. It seems to be a step above the rest. Would that equal to the HPR (Honda Production Racer)? If so, then it could be a fair deal. An advanced starting point to begin development.

Who knows at this point!! The rules are a mess!

If the honda production racer is a for sale item and not a lease item, then surely they can just switch to titanium valve springs etc to get more out of it. Not saying they can get it up to factory spec overnight, but they own it so they can do what they can between them getting it and the start of next season.

Far out, you're fielding a team in MotoGP, expect to pay money to be competitive and get camera time.

Titanium valve springs might be better than steel ones, but are still trumped by the factory's pneumatically operated valves - which allow stratospheric rev ceilings governed only by the maximum piston speed that the bore/stroke ratio is capable of.

As the bore is fixed at 81mm, the stroke is also known, and as Ian Drysdale calculated:

I make that a minimum of 48.5mm stroke. This gives a B/S ratio of 1.67, which is not radical by any means.

At a relatively safe race MPS of 25.0 m/s, that comes to 15,465 rpm.

Pushing the friendship at MPS of 29.0 m/s comes to 17,940 rpm.

MPS is Maximum Piston Speed, this is what governs safe maximum rpms.

The Honda production racer's motor will not manage anywhere near those rpms with steel (or titanium) valve springs without risking catastrophic failure; ergo, it cannot possibly compete with the factory Hondas for race wins, no matter how much money you throw at it.

If you want to compete with a factory Honda for wins, cough up the money for a full prototype! Jesus, are people really complaining that the bike that costs a quarter of the full-juice model might not be competitive with it?

The proddie racer is supposed to be a turn-key package that is fast out of the box. You're not getting race-winning horsepower. It's MotoGP racing on a bargain. And you're getting a bike that, unlike the CRTs (and DON'T mention the ART bikes here), won't try to f*****g kill you or force you to sort through the development of a one-off motorcycle on your own.

"Jesus, are people really complaining that the bike that costs a quarter of the full-juice model might not be competitive with it?"

Not that I am aware of, but as David's article clearly states, the current CRT teams are questioning the worth of switching to a Honda that won't really be any faster than what they already have - but will eat a whole lot more of their budget.

You can lease a full factory prototype.

And it's not that the Honda won't be faster, but the gap between the real CRTs and the factory bikes is so large that the concern is that the additional speed of the proddie Honda won't actually move them significantly up the grid.

Here's the question the CRT teams are posing: If you've got a s**t bike that costs you very little and gets you 11th, how much is it worth to get a way better bike that's only going to move you up to, say, 9th? At Catalunya, the gap between 7th and 8th was 22 seconds; is it worth it to buy the proddie Honda to bridge that gap? The gap between 11th and 9th was 21 seconds; if you can score 11th on an Ioda-Suter, is it worth it to get 9th with a much more expensive proddie Honda?

Of course, and this is what Honda is banking on, if two teams pop for the proddie bike, they will push the CRT teams even further down the grid, thus changing the question to, is ANYONE going to notice us running around even further down the grid? If that Ioda-Suter gets replaced by a proddie Honda and suddenly is racing for 7th or 8th, then your CRT bike is now even further down the grid.

That is the one million euro per season question.

There's the problem. You can't lease a factory prototype. Factories are limited to supplying four bikes, two to the factory team, two to satellite teams. Yamaha has a long-standing relationship with Tech 3, and is almost certain to stay with them for next year. Honda has similarly long relationships with LCR and Gresini, and has no reason to abandon them. Only Ducati is looking at dropping Pramac in favor of someone else.

So even though theoretically, anyone with 3+ million euros per bike and a budget of 6 million or more could afford to lease a bike, they still wouldn't be able to get their hands on one.

And with Suzuki's return, they have never, as far as I can remember, offered any factory prototypes to a satellite team. Which is a damn shame!

Right. So you do what you have to do to either replace Tech 3, LCR, Pramac or Gresini, or buy your/your rider's way onto that team. My point was that it is possible and that satellite bikes are on the grid - it's just incredibly difficult and takes a ton of money to get one.

The proddie bike is aimed at the second-tier competition. Think of it not as giving you a shot at a win, but almost guaranteeing you a shot at the head of the CRT field - there's no way Honda is going to build a bike that's slower than a ZX-10R-engined one-off.

My point wasn't solely restricted to valve springs. Buy a prototype, then make it faster by whatever means within the rules was my point. Hell, team up with a couple of CRT teams to buy one, break it open see how the engine, chassis, suspension etc ticks, then go and make your own based off of that knowledge.

"Buy a prototype, then make it faster by whatever means within the rules ..." is not a crazy idea at all. And pretty much whatever you do you're going to start at a point faster than any non-MSMA team, and you're going to get into the back of the MSMA teams sooner and with less money, time and effort invested than monkeying with an FTR Kawasaki.

I really don't think people realize how much money goes into developing a chassis.

p.s. MSMA and non-MSMA seem awkward to use. I'm going factory and non-factory.

Prototype of factory bikes, along with Hondas production racer & Yamahas M1 engine deals are LEASE ONLY. Along with MotoGP sealing the engines Honda & Yamaha have technicians in the teams pit boxes at all times & the lease teams are limited by contract. This line of thought is pure schoolyard fantasy.

The Honda proddie bike is sold to the teams, and the engine management system is not controlled by Honda but is the spec ECU/software combo. Honda won't care what you do to the bike or engine.

Now, the idea of actually improving the thing yourself might well be fantasy.

But so is my dream involving hitting the lottery and having a quiet mano-a-mano chat with Shuhei for a really cool track day bike ...

This is the first time I have read further details of the Yamaha engine lease deal. I had assumed it looked like the best option for privateer, non satellite teams. However, I was unaware that the deal was for only three engines and two rebuilds. This, along with an engine 'minder', suggests Yamaha will tailor performance should success threaten their existing teams.

Along with Honda's production racer's fuel tank, for instance, it makes me question just how interested the factories really are in this brave new world.

I know it seems electronics get the majority of the blame for less than stella MotoGP races but this is a genuinely desired field of R&D in which factories are interested.

Aprilia's situation highlights a problem with the emerging two championships under Dorna's wing. It seems that Aprilia will no longer be able to develop electronics in MotoGP due to the spec electronics system seemingly being behind their own. Unfortunately for them, neither can they develop in World Superbikes due to direction that appears to be heading.

This surely will be a problem for any manufacturer in either series whom wishes to develop their own electronics.

So if they cannot develop in prototype racing or production racing just why do we have electronics apparently spoiling the show?

Concerning riders. Happy to hear Cal may be close to renewing with Tech3 and better support, he deserves it. My other main rider interest is Redding. I get the feeling Ben Spies will be leaving MotoGP. Hate to see it, but that's reality-he just hasn't gelled with the bikes like he did in WSBK, a la James Toseland. With Ducati owned by Audi, you can bet management will listen to Mr. van der Straten. But it's still a Ducati, no real breakthroughs yet. I'd like to see Alvaro Bautista get bumped, I think a year or two back in Moto2 would straighten him right out-presently he's an embarrassment to the very respectable Gresini team. But that whole "test mule" aspect doesn't fit. Maybe Bradl becomes the test rider, that would fit the technical German, and Germany keeps a rider in the series. The Marc VDS backing could decide which team gets HRC level support.. Silly season indeed. And will Vale retire? I'm a huge fan, but it may be time. Cal to factory Yamaha AND Tech 3 could get Scott. But that decision won't be made in time. I expect Valentino, if he does retire, to do a Swan-Song tour. As for the bikes...

The support Honda sure isn't looking like the threat it seemed when announced, especially with Honda's sky-high prices (relative to current CRT's) and no ownership-that's a BIG difference to team owners. The Yamaha option looks good, why anyone would consider it in a Suter chassis is beyond me. They're not doing great in Moto2, and Colin Edwards' comments on Suter support and development- that is, none- should be three red flags with some flares to any potential buyer. Suter should have been bending over backwards to establish themselves in MotoGP, instead they go with "thanks for the cash, now f€&k off". Not the best approach with one of the most outspoken and established riders on your gear.
Silly Season, I love it! C'mon, Assen! And I may finally get to go to the Sachsenring!

I believe Honda would probably offer some sort of update/refresh package for sale for the following year.

Great piece David, silly season but without the real silliness.
Just one problem, I'm supposed to be working.

With so many two year deals signed last year, I half expected this year to be quite quiet. Mr Redding seems to have put the biggest spanner possible into that hypothesis.

why would anyone lease one of the dumbed down RC213Vs when they already have bikes are why I keep coming back.

The bottom line is factories won't compete if factories don't win (or take the top positions). And IMO the grid is too big (though more bikes might be necessary for financial reasons). Let's be honest. The bottom 5-10 bikes are not getting much coverage for their sponsors. MotoGP itself is not giving them much air time. I am sure they are great riders but something has to be done.

I see things going 3 ways if Dorna actually wants to have good action w/o having everyone completely start from scratch.

- Ditch the non factory/satellite teams and go with an all factory grid. With Suzuki coming back they should have about 15 bikes to fill the grid. Plenty for enough action.

- Ditch the factory bikes and let everyone mix and match engine + chassis from different suppliers. In theory you could have the Honda motor + seamless gearbox in a Yamaha chassis for example.

- Create another race for the bikes that can't break out of Q1. Slower bikes and riders get big bike coverage; the CRTs that can hang with the prototypes get premier coverage.

Any other way, everyone is at mercy to the factories and it becomes a 6-7 bike race. Wouldn't hurt to take the gloves off of techs either- bikes should be able to run DSGs for example. There are a million ways to do it. CRTs could have to follow the same fuel/engine replacement rules but get 100cc more displacement. Anything. What we have now is just not working though.

David, DFH states:

Level 1: Spec ECU, factory software, 5 engines, 20 litres of fuel.
Level 2: Spec ECU & Software, 8 engines, 24 litres of fuel.

I thought Level two (non MSMA) was 12 engines.

Which is it, or has that not been decided for 2014 yet?

Whoops, my bad. 12 it is. Still haven't seen any rational arguments - from a sporting point of view - for the whole field not to compete using the level 2 regs.

Does the Yamaha engine package of 800k for 3 engines + 2 rebuilds mean 2 rebuilds total, or 2 rebuilds for each of the three engines? The first scenario gives effectively 5 engines, the second is effectively 9 engines.

How does this work with the 12 engines allowed? Are the teams using Yamaha engines expected to stump up for one-and-a-bit or two-and-a-bit packages per rider?

Given the way the Yamaha riders are going through engines at the moment I can't say that Yamaha engines would be my first choice. Not as powerful as the Hondas, more fragile, and would look to be costing 1.6M per rider if you have to buy two packages per rider. Excluding accidents of course, but no-one would be foolish enough to drop their bike and damage an engine, would they?

3 engines plus two rebuilds equals 5 engines. Teams using this option run under the tier 1 rules of 20 litres, 5 engines per season Dorna ECU plus yamaha developed software.

That's the confusing thing. The Yamaha engine lease deal means bikes will run as non-MSMA entries. That means 24 liters of fuel, spec software and a maximum of 12 engines. Yamaha's lease deal includes three engines and two rebuilds in the price, because they expect to be able to do a full season with only 5 engines. If the teams want more rebuilds, they will have to pay more. They are allowed more under the rules, but Yamaha doesn't have to supply them.

Thanks for clearing it up David.
Still wouldn't be my first choice of engine then, looking at how the factory guys are going through them this season. Yes, they'll be a different state of tune, but you still have to wonder what the contract would say about a sixth engine if it's needed.

Rumours of his demise may be greatly anticipated but why oh why is Spies propped up as a better choice? Hayden's body of work (Podiums, poles, wins, A World Title) still outclassses most. Don't forget that Spies is not a youngster.