Kevin Schwantz: "Spies Can Win A Race In His First Season"

One of  the big questions MotoGP fans have this year is just how well Ben Spies will do in his first full season of MotoGP. The Texan has already impressed Europeans and outperformed the expectations of Americans by winning the World Superbike title at his first attempt, but so far, World Superbike champions have had a rather patchy record of success in MotoGP. Consequently, fans are fishing about for any data they can find from experts and former riders, to help them make their own minds up.

Knowing this, the excellent US-based video website cornered former 500 GP champion and racing legend Kevin Schwantz at the testing session for the AMA Pro Racing test at Fontana, and asked him for his opinion of Spies' chances in MotoGP. Schwantz was pretty clear in his reply: "I think Ben will win a race in his first season for sure." Watch the full video for why he comes to that conclusion, and to hear what Schwantz has to say about the DMG series, his own plans for 2010 and the Red Bull Rookies.

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Spies will win.. the first lap warm up!!!
Spies will only win a race when Pedrosa takes out Stoner who slides in to Rossi and Lorenzo falls off looking over his shoulders.
Look what happened when Yamaha took the training wheels off Toslands bike he fell off and behind.

PS i hope he does win a race, as the more fast riders the better.. Honda Should have tried to get him over Pedrosa or Dovisioso

I agree Spies could possibly win a race this year but not likely. Unless, of course, he gets some help. You have described one possibility though I think the likelihood of that happening as about the same as Spies out racing the four aliens. Maybe next year.

I have no doubt whatsoever that Spies could score a win in his first season.
I am American but harbor no jingoistic sympathies when it comes to our riders. I am ho-hum on Hayden and Edwards but I think Spies may just have the goods for real. I admire his humility. It's something we Americans have too little of.

...Hayden lacks humility?

I admire Spies, but I wouldn't proffer the idea he's more humble than the Haydens.  Compared to the other 3 Yamaha riders, sure, but that's not saying much.

Honestly, I like Hayden enough but I do see a little Eddie Haskell in him. He seems to put on a boyish face for the cameras and I don't know if I am 100% convinced. That's just me.
As for Spies, that may be the case as well. Only seeing him over time will solidify or dispel that notion. My point was less that Hayden or Edwards lack humility than me seeing it as a quality in Spies. My relatively ho-hum opinion of the other two is just that I find them less exciting overall.

I think you guys are dreaming, Unless he gets lucky in the wet or something, (like Dozi) He'll be VERY lucky to get even a podium this year.

Schwantz is seldom flat wrong when it comes to things involving competition at the top level of this sport. I am sure it would be a bit of a personal triumph for him to see his former protege' succeed in MotoGP as well! Ben is continuing his learning curve at an exponential rate it would seem. He is practical, humble, smart and extremely fast. The key I think will be how well his crew adapts to life, politics and the machinery in Motogp. It will be fun to watch!

Rossi, Lorenzo, Pedrosa all won races in their first year in the top class. Stoner came close and threw it away trying several times. And of course he won the championship in his second year. Rossi, Lorenzo, Pedrosa were all in factory teams.

So is Spies as good as those 4? And can he do it now all four are riding? Can he do it on the Tech3 Yamaha as opposed to the Fiat-Yamaha? I have my doubts.

Even if Spies were to get full-factory-spec equipment at a track where Yamaha are best, and he were to receive all Fiat Yamaha data, and Burgess were to set up his bike; Spies would still have to beat Lorenzo and the GOAT! Both Lorenzo and Rossi have been riding many of these tracks since they were about 14 or 15 years old.

Spies is obviously an immense talent (best US talent in a long time), but he won't win anything this year unless someone takes a tumble or the track gets soggy.

....he is a great rider, and i love to see him riding ( i´m a big V.R. fan ) but he fights the bike to make her go. In motogp its a diferent way of riding. Rossi used to ride that way to, but he had to change he´s style to be able to be faster. Today you dont see the faster riders sliding the bikes.....they keep it clean, straight, and "electronicly controled".
He has got the skils but for him to be 1st, that means that Rossi, Stoner, Lorenzo, Pedrosa will have to be 2nd 3rd 4th 5th.....see the problem?
Even though, i would like to witness "history in the making"!!

I miss the powerslides, rubber marks, smoking tires, roling burnouts.....but that takes fuel that they can´t carry and wreked tires can´t be analysed.

P.S. Pardon my english, errors i´m Portuguese

No need to apologize. Your English may not be perfect, but it is excellent and perfectly understandable, and we are grateful that you are willing to make the effort to post in your second language. Your English is a million times better than my Portuguese, that's for sure. Thanks! 

Your english is better than many who have English as their first language!

And, for all the posts attempting to say the same thing, you've said it the best.

However, I think the riding styles will change a little this year, with the new engine rules and different torque curves.  I think Spies may be able to get on the podium a time or three with his own ability, by beating some of the F4, but finishing ahead of all of them on a normal day seems like bit more than a rookie should be able to do.

How about Indy and Hungary?

How about Laguna?

I think Spies will keep the '4 aliens' honest straight off. Hopefully he'll put to bed the whole 'alien' thing. If he starts take turns with his leg sticking out... it could be trouble!

His biggest issue may be his mass. Can't fault his learning ability, raw talent or past achievements.

The yamahaha is no longer a laughing matter, I think Edwards has shown the customer bike is top tier.

So, in my crystal ball, spies is on the box at least as much as Pedrosa and probably just as likely to get as many wins (1 or 2), if not more. I wouldn't be surprised if he beats George in final standings. Will he be beat Casey and Vale? I'm not going out on that limb :)

Bring on the season!

you cut me deep rusty.
Your english is better than many who have English as their first language!

aside from the one race a year that pedrosa breaks away at the front, i think that spies will end up fighting most of the year with him, and sometimes edwards.

Spies any favors by setting him up for an emotional he isn't going to win in 2010.

Lets be realistic. Spies had his hands full with Haga, & surely no one has EVER said Haga at his best (when he rode 500's) was a top 3 rider; so in 2009 in the twilight (and MANY crashes later) of his career he surely hasn't gotten faster.

Yes..Spies is a huge talent but like Pedrossa (& others) he has entered the sport at probably THE most competitive time EVER!

I disagree with the idea that Haga hasnt gotten faster since his days on the 500s or that those were his "best" days. Early in his career he was a "pin it and win it or bin it" kind of racer. He had no workout/training schedule to speak of. He finished 14th on the 500s and 14th again on the RS3 Cube project. Haga never had the throttle discipline to race in GP, certainly not on the 500s.

In 2000 he was contending for the WSBK title just a brief 2 years after racing there full time.
01 500s 14th
02 4th on a single rider Aprilia Team
03 MotoGP Cube Project 14th
04 in contention to the last round finished 3rd.
05 3rd again
06 3rd again
07 in contention to the last round finished 2nd by 2 points
08 3rd
09 2nd

History says that Haga has been a top 3 rider in WSBK since 2000 and has gotten or stayed just as fast the past 6 years. And he finished 6th and 7th in his rookie and sophomore years 98 and 99.

Haga's problem is that he clearly has a tough time maintaining race discipline when he gets into a dog fight. He still makes stupid decisions in the heat of the moment. When I watch Haga vs Rossi or even Spies, Haga doesnt know how to control the race. He allows others to control the race and he gets burned for it. Last year he has a teammate that cared only about himself(Is Fabri managed by Alberto Puig by any chance?) and his own chances of winning.

Haga is clearly one of the top 3 Superbike riders in the world and has held pace with the best of the best and gotten faster with them. Saying he was at his "best" when he was riding 500s is selling short all the work he has done in WSBK since then and a disservice to the work he has put in to stay on top of the game for almost a decade.

I think there are two fair points made in this exchange - Haga is indeed a massive talent and definitely one of the top three WSB guys on the planet, and Spies did have to dig deep to beat him (both had their issues but in head to head fights Haga definitely could run with Spies).

Haga could not do the same with the Beatles though (I like that better than Aliens :) Spies is still on a huge learning curve so has the potential to get there, though.

I was already thinking he'd get a podium or three and possibly a win in 2010, before I saw Schwantz's comments - but the win will be in a race of attrition, and there's usually one or two of those per year.

Good points in all the above but I'll stick by my prediction. Living in the States I've followed Spies career closely. He is about the same size as Rossi, is as mentally tough as any rider in the GP paddock and is as fit (or fitter) as well. He adapts quickly to new bikes and circuits. I know it's hard for many to see this and understandably so but let me assure you, Ben Spies is not your average MotoGP rookie...

motodog-650 i agree with you. i too live in the states and have been following Ben's career for 4 or 5 years now. The world, in general, doesn't know, that until ben came to AMA SBK, Mat Mladin was routinely winning often by a margin of 10 sec. NO ONE could touch him. Ben came and beat him for 3 yrs in a row. When Ben went to FIM SBK , USA already knew who Ben was, the world still didn't. Jonathan Green's own words. There is no way Ben will blow Motogp off its foundation like he did to FIM SBK, but i see posts here (just like Suzuki bosses before them) greatly understimate Ben. Too bad Ben hasn't gone to motogp at age 20. its suzuki's fault he hasnt gone there at age 22 or 23.

For another Alien. What Spies did 2009 on a far from fully sorted motorcycle in his rookie year was nothing short of phenomenal. Yes he had to wrestle the R1 in a manner that the M1 does not require or probably respond well too. Spies recognises this and is changing his riding accordingly. Adaptability is an attribute it is clear he has. I doubt he will will in his rookie year - loved to be proven wrong though. That said I am fully expecting podiums through beating one or more of the Aliens in a straight out fight. As a Kiwi, a talented humble septic tank is one I am glad to support. Get stuck in Ben!
Motorcycles fall over if you don't go fast quite the optimist.

It's true the engine limit will shrink the gap between factory and satellite bikes; however, there are things the factory will refine during the season such as chassis, electronics, and aero packages which can open the gap right up again.

I want to give Ben the benefit of the doubt, but on a satellite M1, with all the differences in riding style needed to win on a 800cc prototype, he's facing the biggest challenge of his career.

Could he win? It's not impossible, but it's not likely.

Look who Haga has lost to. Bayliss, Vermeulen, Toseland & Corser. See the pattern?

In your wildest fantasy you could not speak of any of them in the same sentence as the aliens. EVEN if you expect Spies' most optimistic climb up the learning curve...not only will he have to learn MANY new tracks, he'll have to increase his pace measurably from any time in his career.

Even if (BIG IF in his 1st year) he could match the pace of the aliens ..THEN...he would have to PASS them!! We've all heard the old cliche about catching someone..and then getting around them. I believe that Spies will (sooner than later) acquire "the pace", but even when he does, he won't have spent enough time AT the pace to be comfortable to think about passing. Remember the 4 have now spent YEARS there... and are accustomed to it & can think while going that fast. I could see him (late season) giving Pedrosa fits though.

Like I said.. Schwantz are not doing Spies any favors setting him up for a fall (literal or figurative).

It was more a point that Haga is a better rider now than he was in the early 00s. That he wasnt on top of his game back when he rode 500s

nobody is setting spies up for an emotional let down. the only person capable of letting spies down is spies. i doubt he feels any pressure to live up to anyones predictions. personally, i think he will finish on a podium this year, but a win, that will be tough. the new engine rules can only help him though in my opinion. and with colin helping him as much as i believe he will, he is in a good position to capitalize on an alien down. i think he will have a battle or two with hayden, edwards, and pedrosa this year. really looking forward to the day he beats pedrosa heads up. the other 3....may be a little harder to catch.

I do agree that Spies is hugely talented and also seems to be a great guy. However, i think one aspect that so often gets overlooked is that he'll now be riding a GP bike not a production based superbike.

We've repeatedly seen riders struggle over the years coming from superbike and i think they are at a huge disadvantage to those who rise through the 125 & 250s as they don't have the same understanding of the myriad of possibilities in set up a GP bike has. I think Hayden has adapted the best so far. Comparatively a superbike is very limited with what can be adjusted.

I would love to see him win a race but if Edwards (who often runs 5th and had a factory ride for years) hasn't cracked it then Spies winning in his first year would be monumental. Good luck to him.

Many good points made here. No matter what Spies does this year he has already helped us bench racers get through the winter. I have high hopes and expectations for him. Thanks for that Mister Elbows - and I hope you continue to stir the pot all year long!

Spies best shot at a win will probably be Laguna on a track he has raced on many times throughout his career.

Although winning the first year on a non factory bike will be a monumental task to accomplish do not count Spies out of having the abilities to pull it off.

Not only will Ben win Laguna Seca, but he'll walk on water across the Pacific Ocean to Laguna. Or maybe just part it, instead.

It's not a question as to what races Ben will win, it's what races WON'T he win.