Ben Spies refused to be downhearted despite coming within inches of winning the season-ending Valencian Grand Prix. The American thrived in the slippery conditions late in the race, reducing Casey Stoner's ten second lead in double-quick time before overtaking him three laps from home.
Having taken the lead though, Spies was now the first man to encounter the uncertain grip levels, allowing Stoner to outdrag him on the run to the finish line. Although he was 0.015s away from victory, the Yamaha rider was pleased to finish so strongly given his recent injury problems.
“The conditions were really tough today, with the rain it was so difficult to know how hard to push so I was just concentrating on bringing the bike home. We were able to follow Dani and Dovi and get past them eventually and then get past Casey when he made a small mistake. When there's no rider in front of you, you don't have a judge on how slippery the track is so it's difficult to judge speed in that last lap. When we came out of the last corner I got the paint sucked off the bike by Casey as he went past! I'm happy enough; we made a huge charge at the end and finished well. Considering how the last month has gone it's a great way to end. We'll focus on the test now and aim to be up there and even more competitive next year. A huge thank you to Yamaha and my crew who made sure I had a great bike to ride today. This morning we all came out to make some noise and say goodbye to Marco, I'm pretty sure he heard us and I know he would have approved!”
Stand-in rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga also impressed with sixth place on the second factory YZR-M1. The Japanese rider admitted the weather had helped him slightly but was still delighted with the result.
“I was really surprised with sixth position in the race! In the beginning I was very nervous because of the weather condition so my main target was to complete the race. I am used to Japanese races which only last 30 minutes so I was worried that I might not be able to keep my concentration for nearly double the time. Finally I'm very happy, the last five laps were quite risky because it wasn't easy to go faster but I had nothing to lose so I wanted to push as hard as I could. It's been amazing to experiment with a real Grand Prix race, not only can I use this for future development riding but I'm very pleased with the good result. The weather maybe helped me, but I am happy and enjoying the moment.”
Team Manager Wilco Zeelenberg admitted he was pleasantly surprised with the result but welcomed the confidence boost heading into the 1000cc test on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“That was a very surprising race but very exciting as well! We are very happy with the results; Nakasuga-san's sixth position is fantastic. 30 laps in dry and wet conditions are very difficult when you have to push. To finish in front of regular GP riders is very good. Ben's podium in between those two competitors was brilliant, a shame we just got passed at the line. Overall we've had a great weekend, now we're going to work hard for the next few days to prepare for 2012.”
The team announced on Monday that Jorge Lorenzo will not be riding in the Valencia test as he continues to recover from the injuries sustained in Australia.