Ben Spies rode a strong race in Qatar to get his full-time MotoGP career off to a highly impressive start in the opening race at Losail, placing fifth to announce his arrival in the premier class with style.
The American of the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team rose from 11th place on the starting grid to secure the top five finish with an intelligent ride, finishing just under four seconds off race winner and defending World Champion Valentino Rossi.
“For the first race of the year, with all the hype and everything, it was good to get a top five and to be able to see the podium,” said Spies, who was the highest placed rookie in the season opener by some distance.
”I’m super happy about it and am glad it’s over and I can now try and get more into a rhythm for the season, but now we go to a track I don’t know so it’s going to be a bit tough in Japan! All we can do is give it 100%. We put together a really good race here and from where we started on the grid I think it was the perfect start to the season. I think if we qualified a bit higher we may not have got on the podium, but we could have battled for it.”
Spies reserved special praise for his technical team who helped prepare his M1 prototype for the race, adding: “I have to thank the team, they made a couple of changes to the bike and made it better, and it was a good end to the weekend which was a bit rough in the middle. I made some mistakes in qualifying which put us in a bad position, but I got quite aggressive in the first few laps of the race because I knew that’s where I needed to be better.”
Team-mate Colin Edwards also got his Championship off to a point-scoring start, taking eighth place. He had some issues with grip to contend with throughout the 22-lap race however.
“To walk away with eighth is better than nothing,” Edwards stated. “I struggled all weekend and just had no grip. We got it working halfway decent for qualifying but of course soft tyres are a different story, and then I went out for the race and it just seemed to be spinning. I rode as hard as could and I’m happy with the way I was riding, I just didn’t have the pace.”
Looking ahead to the next race in Japan, Edwards added: “I’m ready to get back to normal after the night race! We got points here, and now we’re going to the next race in good shape so it can’t be that bad.”
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