The three-time AMA Superbike champion has impressed observers by ranking among the leaders in pre-season testing sessions on Yamaha’s new YZF-R1 and many are predicting his success will carry over on the international stage. The Texas resident says he is excited about beginning the next chapter of his motorcycle racing career.
“Just the fact that I have the challenge of learning new tracks and helping develop a new motorcycle has me focused more than ever,” says Spies. “People are expecting a lot out of me and I appreciate the support and faith they have in me, but the reality is I’ve never turned a wheel in a World Superbike race, so I have a lot to learn.
“That being said, I still expect to go out there and have the chance to do well. If it comes down to the final lap and I’m anywhere near the front, I’m not going to let the fact that I’m a rookie in this championship bother me at all. I’ll do everything I can to win if the opportunity presents itself.”
Spies will attempt to be the first American WSBK Champion since Colin Edwards won the title in 2002. Spies will be the only American regular in the 2009 season, but U.S.-born riders have had a history of WSBK success. In the series’ 21-year history, The United States leads all nations with eight WSBK championships, two from Edwards, Doug Polen and Fred Merkel and one each from John Kocinski and Scott Russell.
Based on his reputation and his success in the test sessions, many predict Spies will soon add his name to that list. Spies says, however, that Ducati’s Noriyuiki Haga is the one to beat.
“You’d have to say Haga,” says Spies. “He’s the most seasoned rider, he’s on a really good bike and knows the tracks.”
The 2009 WSBK grid will feature a record 32 entrants with seven manufacturers, and Spies says any number of them could make a run for the title.
“That’s the beauty of World Superbike,” says Spies. “There are so many riders who have the potential to win races and the championship. It’s going to take a good clean year and a bit of luck on your side to win this thing.”
Spies can’t do much about luck but he is doing what he can to get ready.
“Right now I’m focused on training, getting better as a rider, learning the new circuits (often via video games) and developing the Yamaha,” says Spies. “The great thing is that my R1 is getting better every time I ride it. I would imagine as development on the bike continues, it’ll get better throughout the first half of the season. If we get to mid-season and are in the championship hunt, I’ll be very happy.”