Ben Spies has yet to reach a peak in his career, that much we are certain. We were relatively surprised then, when Larry Lawrence released Ben Spies: Taking it to the Next Level, a biography on the World Champion himself. Take into consideration Spies’ long list of accomplishments up to this point however, and it’s actually not so shocking that Lawrence has already gone about telling the Texan’s story.
Spies’ brilliant rise to stardom was not without its low points, and at each stage in his life the young champ was faced with adversity and rivalries that would ultimately make him the racer he is today. Insight from those closest to Spies, including Mary Spies (his mother), Keith Cherry (the man responsible for getting Ben on a motorcycle), Kevin Schwantz, Tom Houseworth, Herv Poncharal (the Tech 3 team manager) and more allow Lawrence to touch on each of the challenges Spies encountered. Pictures from the Spies family’s photo album and images from renowned photographers within the industry tell an equal amount of the story and complement nearly every page.
Ben Spies: Taking it to the Next Level is a timeline of sorts, one that allows you to follow Spies from his early days as an amateur racer growing up in Texas to factory Yamaha MotoGP racer, with bits of family history sprinkled in between. The bulk of the story focuses on Spies’ racing success and many of his important races are highlighted, including his battles with John Hopkins aboard his Blackmans Cycle-backed Aprilia RS250 at Pocono and Texas World Speedway; races which would grab the attention of John Ulrich, who would ultimately offer Spies a seat on the Valvoline EMGO Suzuki team at the ripe age of 16. There are also great talks about Spies’ difficult year aboard the Attack Suzuki GSX-R1000 Formula Xtreme bike and his quick departure to the factory-supported Yoshimura Suzuki team, where he would eventually win three Superbike championships. Later chapters discuss Ben’s wildcard experience aboard the Suzuki GSV-R and his departure from World Superbike to the Tech 3 MotoGP squad.
It’s that inside information from Ben himself and from those closest to him that really tells the story though, and much of the quotes from his mom and the likes of Herve Poncharal provide detailed information that you simply won’t find elsewhere. For instance, you would have never known that Spies actually signed a contract to race World Superbike for one more year aboard the Yamaha, but changed his mind just moments before Mary dropped the contract in the mail. Wikipedia won’t tell you either that Infront Motor Sports, the company that runs the WSBK championship, wanted Spies in the series so badly that they helped pay for his motor coach at the races; or that it was Spies who first contacted Keith McCarty, the Yamaha factory race manager, about the chance to race Yamahas.
The surplus of insider information provided is virtually endless and evidence of the great effort that Lawrence put into this book. His hard work has paid great dividends, too — we could hardly put the book down once opened, most enjoying the fact that with each chapter came a progression in Spies’ racing career. What we found frustrating however is that, because the biography was written before Ben’s successes during the 2011 season aboard the factory Yamaha MotoGP bike, you miss out on some of Spies’ greatest accomplishments.
At the end of the day, if you are a Spies fan, you will enjoy this book. And if you aren’t a Spies fan, you will still enjoy this book. It’s a story about one of the hardest working and most determined racers of all time, and who can’t appreciate that? SR
What We’re Testing
Arai’s new Signet-Q helmet is based on the RX-Q but designed for long-oval head shapes. Redirected brow vents and a 10mm-wider eyeport are among the list of additions to the helmet.
Rev’It Ranger GORE® Windstopper® Jacket
The winter months are well upon us, and as such, we’re keeping our Rev’It Ranger WSP jacket handy. The jacket is 100-percent windproof, water repellent and has full stretch capabilities.