Ben Spies Speaks To Cycle World About Why He Left Yamaha

The 2012 MotoGP season was one which was absolutely full of surprises. One of the very biggest was surely Ben Spies' shock decision to leave Yamaha at the end of 2012, something which nobody had seen coming. The move was unexpected in part because the Yamaha was clearly a highly competitive bike, as Jorge Lorenzo's world championship demonstrated. But most shocking of all was the way in which Spies announced his intention to move: via tweeting a link to an interview given in the early hours of a July morning to's Dean Adams.

Announcing your resignation by Social Media is highly unusual, to say the very least, and hinted at some very deep and dark motives behind the move. Under normal circumstances, the team the rider is leaving draws up a press release, and the departure takes place in an orderly fashion. This was the PR equivalent of a unilateral nuclear strike, especially when Spies told Adams that he had decided to leave Yamaha for "a litany of reasons." What those reasons were he could not disclose - other than mentioning to reporters at Indianapolis that a Yamaha official had spoken to him at Mugello and told him not to bother coming to Laguna Seca if he wasn't prepared to put in 100% - until his Yamaha contract expired on December 31st, 2012.

Now, January 2nd, 2013, Spies is no longer under contract to Yamaha, and therefore is at liberty to speak. He chose the venerable US publication Cycle World to speak to, and in a long and fascinating article explains why he left Yamaha, and the decision-making process that led him to sign with Ducati, to race with the Pramac Ducati Junior team alongside Andrea Iannone. Clearly, the way he was spoken to at Mugello, where he was totally incapacitated by food poisoning, played a major role in his decision to move. But it came on top of a host of mishaps which started at Qatar and lasted almost all season long. Spies is at pains to point out that he always had the same equipment as Jorge Lorenzo, but that it was frustrating that misfortune always seemed to strike him, rather than his teammate Lorenzo.

Perhaps even more interesting than his reasons for leaving Yamaha is his description of where the strongest points of the Yamaha lie, and how it was diametrically opposed to his natural riding style. The smoothness which the Yamaha demands, coupled with the fastidious nature of the Bridgestone tires, made it very difficult for Spies to get the bike to do what he wanted. Spies also walks the readers of the article through the process by which he ended up at Pramac Ducati, much of which is also related to his riding style.

The article by Spies makes for fascinating reading. We recommend that you head on over to the Cycle World website and read the article in its entirety. It is well worth the effort.

Back to top


Still think there are going to be some hard days before the Duc gets sorted, but Ben is still young enough to make it worth trying.

Would love to know what or who at Gresini/Honda wasn't ready yet.

... at HRC for the Spies-to-Gresini option, at that point.  And there's no one to blame.

Without question, Suppo talking to Spies meant that getting the "factory-supported" bike was the only option for luring him in.  But, there would have been no reasonable financial logic to force Bautista or Bradl out of their rides, or the sponsors from those teams, to make way for Spies.

Conversely, Ducati had already made it known that they were going to improve the relationship with the satellite team and upgrade them to a "junior" team.  That process had been in the works and so they were more prepared to make an offer to Spies, which also appears to have made way for his own sponsor.

Not to sound superstitious or anything but the times he ran with his number 11 in the proper way and not opposite to each other, he finished and had okay results. To some in the know-how believe that brings tragedy. Review his results and you'll see.

He was forced to use a new number entering WSBK in '09....and look how that worked out for him. That kind of mojo may matter to others, but I doubt he gives a hoot.

All these mechanical failures, undetected crash damage... I'm sorry, but it has to be laid at the feet of his crew chief, Tom Houseworth...

It is good to FINALLY be hearing straight from Ben Spies. Had a feeling that Yamaha were talking down to him. The raw, UNCUT disgust that would cross Lin Jarvis face when anything about Ben Spies came up seemed to speak volumes to the feeling they had towards Spies.

Alot guys say the mechanical issue were Tom Houseworth's issue. Some things I believe there was a high possibility to be his fault, but the blown Engine (which is sealed), and overheating brakes... The brakes I might be able to write off, but watching him get spit off at Laguna this year gave me a very sick feeling in my gut. Stuff was breaking on his bike that NO ONE was having a problem with. Subframe?!?

Spies himself messed up a couple of times all on his own, but I still do not think he will be that low in the standings this year even on a Ducati. In fact, he may be out to prove that he can do better on a Ducati than he was on the Factory Yamaha. Whether that will happen or not, I have low expectations on. But hey, I still will not ever write him off. 1 win in the dry against the 2 Aliens. I still have hope.

I magine if you will, a young man loaded with talent and all the tools needed to be the next American GP champion. Then for no explainable reason, a chain of bizarre and once in a lifetime events occur that land Ben Spies in the Twilight Zone. The only normal event that happened to Spies all year, was the one the as reported, sent Yamaha over the edge. Food Poisoning!

An easy and better argument could have been made by Yamaha, mid year. Hey man, it's just not working out for either of us. No hard feelings. Keep it professional. While Spies won a solid race at Assen and nearly took a second win at Valencia...even then things weren't working as well as hoped. Now with all the public failures at Yamaha, no matter who was in the pits, it was a factory Yamaha breaking parts all over the track. In my eyes, they come off worse in this episode.

I'm sorry but I'm finding it a bit hard to believe that the guy that handed Matt Mladin's head games back to him on a silver platter by defeating him multiple times for the AMA Championship was "upset" by someone at Yamaha questioning his dedication. There must have been much, much more said and done to derail his confidence and Spies is definitely not telling the whole story.

Love his analysis of the riding style required to make the Bridgestones work, as they are the key to being successful in MotoGP these days, no matter what kind of frame or engine you're on.

I think Ben is signaling that the Ducati needs to be ridden all ragged up superbike style and he might have the right recipie, at least thats what I read between the lines.

While I agree with your interpretation of the approach Ben seems to think is necessary to be fast on the Ducati, I have serious doubts about the approach itself.

Ben has forgotten more about riding bikes than I could ever hope to know, but from what I've seen, it seems a lot of Casey's success had to do with his ability to completely ignore the fact he was receiving essentially no useful feedback from the front end.

I mean all the lowsides Casey had riding the post trellis-frame bikes were like a light switch. Blazing fast and then on the ground the next lap for no apparent reason. Many of which Casey himself couldn't really explain, saying on several occasions that he was doing exactly the same thing when he crashed as he was for multiple blazing laps prior.

These bikes aren't the bucking-broncos of old. I don't think any amount of man-handling the Ducati is going to be a cure if the same problems from the last few years persist. I think there are probably a lot of changes in the pipeline, but it'll be a while until they show results on the track.

Remember reading somewhere , properly here, might have been an interview with Nicky Hayden, where he said the reason Casey was so fast on the Duc was because he didn't mind it moving under him,
he didn't manhandle it as such but let the bike move how it needed to.

@Luiggi. I agree. Its odd that Hayden hasn't been able to make that style of riding work as he is not only AMA-trained, but a former dirt-tracker as well. Maybe he's been at it too long to adapt, but hopefully Spies is able. Certainly if he revives his mental "Chuck you Farley" attitude that he wielded so successfully against Mladin, he'll be successful!

I think Ben is capable of fighting for the top box if on the right machine. It would be a real miracle if Audi can provide that for him this year. I sure hope so.

It was very obvious that Ben's heart was not totally in it last year. I hope he is as hungry to beat the boys this year as he was when he banged bars with Mat - that was some fantastic action between two amazing men.

I can't help but think that by mid-year, Yamaha was in serious discussions with Rossi and trying to move Spies out of the picture.

As easy as it is to have copious amounts of sympathy with Ben Spies and how his season went last year, I find it hard to believe this was anything other than "you can't fire me....I quit".

Sadly I think Ben Spies is another casualty of the transition to the single make spec tyre. Look back to the Dunlop v Michelin days of 500's and look what some riders could do on one tyre compared to the other. If the tyre war was still part of the show, and making tyres to suit bikes/riders the way to win it, Spies would be right at the front.

Best of luck on the Ducati, hopefully it will be a competitive combination.

I was stunned when I read at the begining of testing last year that he'd not ridden any motorcycle, AT ALL, during the off season - I hope he's changing that up this year?

I really thought last year he'd be much rather be racing bikes than motorcycles and I hope this has changed..

Many of the problems do come down to holdsworth (I am sure Ben's mom gave him an ear full more than once because of this). Yet any of the problems, were completely freak "that's just racing" types of incidents. The one thing that dstrubs me about the article is that Ben Takes *no responsiablity* for his riding last year. It was the bike, the bike, the tires etc... much of it true but not all of it.

His bike was generally bad but not always - he got too anxious a couple of times and 'bined' - that wasn't the bikes fault it was Ben's making rookie mistakes. I don't think he ever beat the tech 3 boys this year....

As an American, I want to see Ben do well - But I certainly hope he riding motorcycles during the off season and not just lost in self Pity..