America was well-represented in the final MotoGP event of the 2009 season at Valencia, Spain, with all three American riders finishing in the top ten. Monster Tech 3 Yamaha’s Colin Edwards solidified his ranking as the top non-factory rider with a fourth-place finish that—combined with fellow Texan (and soon to be teammate) Ben Spies’ finish in front of Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovisioso in the race—garnered Edwards fifth place in the final championship standings. Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden overcame practice difficulties and put in one of his best rides of what has been a difficult season, finishing fifth in the race, a couple of seconds behind Edwards. Newly-crowned World Superbike champion Ben Spies was given the opportunity by Yamaha for a wildcard entry to the Valencia MotoGP event, and he made the most of it. Spies methodically and patiently came to grips with the Yamaha M1, qualifying in ninth place, and then waiting during the first few laps of the race until he was sure the Bridgestone tires were warm enough to push ahead and start picking off riders. The former three-time AMA Superbike champion finished a very credible seventh.
World Superbike Champion Ben...
World Superbike Champion Ben Spies made the most of his wildcard ride at Valencia, finishing seventh ahead of many far more experienced MotoGP riders. He'll be Monster Tech 3 Yamaha teammate to Colin Edwards starting tomorrow.
“We actually got a lot better start than I thought I was going to get,” said Spies, “but the first few laps I got kinda shuffled around and bullied around, and I kinda knew that was going to be the case, I haven’t figured out how get comfortable quite as fast on the tires. I just slowly picked off some people, made some smart passes, I didn’t want to mess up anybody else’s titles or where they’re in the championship…just wanted to be clean but still ride as hard as I could. I was catching Dovi, and I saw Colin up there, and I knew they were locked in some sort of championship battle coming in here, so I got around [Dovisioso]. Elias and Nick were a couple of seconds ahead, and I knew I couldn’t catch them, so I just kept my head down and kept my focus to keep the lap times fast; I got my quickest lap on the last lap.
“Every session we didn’t make huge bounds, but we didn’t do anything stupid, I didn’t stack it up and cost Yamaha a bunch of money. We got a top ten finish, and a top ten finish here is like winning a World Superbike race to me because I’m racing the fastest guys in the world. We didn’t set the world on fire, but we didn’t do horrible. This is where the hard work starts, and we know that. But we’re off to a good start.
“[Racing this weekend] has been good, it’s three-and-a-half hours of time on the bike that I wouldn’t have had, and now I can start the test tomorrow with actual feeling on the bike and try to change some stuff. We made two millimeters of change to the whole bike the whole weekend, we didn’t do anything. The bike’s still better than me right now. Just got to keep making changes as a rider; I kinda reverted back to my superbike riding style when the tires went off today, it’s stuff I gotta work on. But we didn’t do too bad today. If we would’ve had a 12th place finish but did the same lap times I would’ve been just as happy. We gotta keep learning and keep working, it’s a big learning curve and it’s not easy. These guys here are really fast. Should be fun, though; not scared to try it, but I know what I got into, so should be good.”
Edwards finished a very strong...
Edwards finished a very strong fourth at Valencia, garnering a well-deserved fifth place in the final MotoGP Championship standings.
“Things really fell my way today but over the course of the season I feel like I really deserve fifth place in the championship,” said a happy Edwards. “At best I was thinking I could finish fifth in the race but then I saw Casey wasn't on the grid and immediately I thought ‘well, there's some more points up for grabs.' I got a great start and the bike was working awesome but those three out front were untouchable. I don't know how they do it, what they've got or what they eat for breakfast, but I couldn't run their pace. In the middle of the race I couldn't carry the corner speed I wanted to so I tried to smooth myself out and just rode out of my skin. I was doing the best I could but wasn't sure where Dovizioso was. It turns out Ben got by him and that point proved crucial. I gave him a big hug after the race and anything he wants me to buy him, he can have it. I'm glad he adapted so quickly to the Yamaha because him riding so well is what got me that fifth overall and I'm really looking forward to working with him. To finish fifth in the championship is a great feeling when you look at the talent in front of me. I was consistent all season and feel like I rode some of my best races to get this final position. I'm happy for myself and for my guys at Monster Yamaha Tech 3. We are a really close unit and they always give me 100 per cent, so hopefully they can take a lot of satisfaction out of this result as well. I wish James (Toseland) all the best for the future too and am convinced he can carry on Yamaha's success in World Superbikes.”
Nicky Hayden overcame practice...
Nicky Hayden overcame practice difficulties and scored a solid fifth place at Valencia.
“I thought it might be possible to do a little better than that today but I didn’t get the best start,” said Hayden. “The clutch was slipping a little bit down the first couple of straightaways and I lost some positions. After that I managed to pull myself up again and from there it was a case of doing my best to try and bridge the gap to Colin (Edwards). The bike was working quite well but every time I closed a tenth or two he had an answer and pulled it back out. Towards the end I had some issues in a couple of left-handers and my pace dropped too much. Anyway, I had an enjoyable race, going back and forth with a few guys at the beginning especially. It’s not a spectacular result but we’ve end the season with two top fives and we know we have a direction to work in over the winter. It hasn’t been a great season for me in terms of results but the improvements we have made since the start are huge and I’m excited about the future. We’re thirteenth overall, which looks awful on paper, but we are only eleven points off seventh and I had three first-lap incidents that weren’t my fault – just one of those could have made the difference. Next season starts tomorrow and I can’t wait to get back to work! There will be some changes in the team and a few guys leaving who I will miss. I want to thank them because even though it’s on old saying it really is true that Ducati is like a family. All I can say is good luck to them and I’m looking forward to welcoming the new guys in.”