June 9, 2011
The announcement that Yamaha has signed Ben Spies to a contract extension through the 2012 season (see the official press release here, with some quotes from Spies and Yamaha management), comes as no surprise. Spies has performed well for Yamaha since capturing the WSB title in 2009, and MotoGP Rookie of the Year in 2010. The transition to the 1000cc bikes next year should only make Spies more competitive.
Spies has extensive experience racing 1000cc superbikes, both in the United States and at the WSB level. Although the MotoGP bikes will be substantially lighter than their WSB counterparts, the huge torque and power offered by the 1000cc machines will be familiar to Spies, and also erase any disadvantage he currently has as one of the largest, heaviest riders in MotoGP.
You can follow this link to the MotoGP website for a look at the different riders currently competing in MotoGP. Spies is a big guy … nearly 6 feet tall and listed at 71 kg (156 pounds). Heavier than virtually every other MotoGP competitor except for Marco Simoncelli, Spies is arguably at a disadvantage aboard the 800cc bikes currently being raced. Indeed, Simoncelli and Valentino Rossi, another one of the larger riders (although lighter than Spies) have argued that the total bike and rider weight should be subject to a minimum, equalizing the rider/bike total weight for all participants. For comparison purposes, Dani Pedrosa is slightly more than 110 pounds, roughly 50 pounds lighter than Simoncelli.
There is no question that rider weight will be less of a factor when the 1000cc machines take the grid at the start of the 2012 series. Spies, already doing quite well aboard an 800, could potentially become one of the dominant riders of the coming 1000cc era.