SEPANG, MALAYSIA, FEB 6 – Ignite Pramac Racing Team’s Ben Spies wanted everyone to know the reports of his retiring from the Sepang test were premature.
A report on an Italian website that was lifted by others suggested Spies might not finish his first three-day test on the Ducati Desmosedici GP13. Not the case, Spies said. His surgically repaired right shoulder was recovering at the expected pace, and sore from a day’s exertions at Sepang. But it was the possibility of tendinitis in his right forearm that had caused alarm. Spies left the track after completing his limited test program on Tuesday with his forearm in a compression stocking. The diagnosis of tendinitis was disputed by his physiotherapist, who put it down to hard braking.
“I don’t know if it was really tendinitis, but my forearm, I had some clicking and stuff, not arm pump,” Spies said relaxing in his office at the back of the Ignite Pramac Racing Team garage. “It was weird, and I talked to the physio guy and he said, honestly, just from not really doing anything with that right forearm, because of my shoulder the first time I do it it’s like 3-4 gs on the brakes and it goes from nothing to extreme workout. And it was pretty normal today. Actually that’s what’s strange is I had no problems with it, but yesterday it hurt quite bad. So yeah, that’s not the problem today. The problem today is just kinda the shoulder’s sore from yesterday, but that’s it.”
With the shoulder well below full strength, Spies was compensating with his forearms. Sepang International Circuit has two long straights, with hard braking from sixth gear. It was that hard braking that caused the forearm problems, Spies said, and on Wednesday he felt much better.
“Honestly, you know, I feel better today in some ways and in some ways I’m definitely more sore,” he said after his second test day on the GP13. “But the muscles in my shoulder that you use, obviously when you’re riding, they seem a little more used to riding again, just kinda doing the movements. But obviously sore from doing it yesterday. So, yeah, I feel better.
“We didn’t do a lot this morning, but for how hard we’re pushing and not really changing the bike to be, I guess, less than a second off the other factory guys, I’m actually pretty surprised. So we’re still trying to be easy and kinda come up slow and not push the barriers too much and I think for the first test we’re doing what we set out to do and actually I’m a little bit quicker than I thought I was going to be, so it’s going OK
Even with one good arm, Spies was faster than teammate Andrea Iannone on the second day of the Sepang test, who was two spots down the order. Spies was 13th, three spots behind Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso and four behind senior Ducati Team rider Nicky Hayden, who was about a second faster than Spies on his best lap. The fast lap was his 22nd of 27; he was restricted to 40 laps on the day, but didn’t get there after rain brought a halt to serious riding late in the afternoon.
“Basically we set the limit at 40 laps just so I, for sure, would be able to have energy on the last day,” he said. “But I don’t feel so bad right now.” He continued, “The main thing is I don’t want to really dig myself into a hole where I can’t ride the third day, where I spend the next four days recovering instead of building to be better. We’re just trying to keep everything, if anything, on a lower scale so we don’t do any more, not damage, but it doesn’t mess up the recovery process or getting better for the next test. So we’re just trying to take it easy and do everything the right way and so far, so good.”
Spies was asked after both Tuesday and Wednesday for his impression of the rider-unfriendly Ducati. Both times he demurred, insisting that at the pace he was riding he couldn’t give the bike a proper workout, though he got closer on Wednesday.
“Honestly, still we’re definitely not pushing hard enough where we’re doing any changes with the bike,” he said. “I don’t want to be setting the bike up for riding it 75-80%. And we’ve done a couple things, like putting a thicker seat pad on just so I had something to rest against on acceleration and I don’t have to use my arms so much. We tested the bars a little bit lower for a real feel of what I like and I actually liked it more. But with them being lower I was having to use kind of a different muscle on the brakes and it was weaker, so I needed to run them a little bit higher.
“So I’m not in the way to really set the bike or do much changing, because I’m not at the pace and I’m not riding the bike completely normal. So, right now it’s just, still just doing laps and just getting used to the bike and trying to learn the feel of it. And, yeah, we’re much faster today and feeling a lot more comfortable on the bike, but as in knowing the full potential of really trying to set it up, this test isn’t really useful to do that, because I don’t want to do anything in the wrong way.”
The most notorious weakness of the Ducati is the front end. Later in the day both Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso would complain of the lack of progress with the front end issue. At the speed he was going at the Sepang test, Spies couldn’t be as critical.
“Right now it’s hard, like I said, it’s just hard to say because when you’re a second off the other guys on the same bike that’s a big second and 2 – 2.5 seconds off the fastest time,” he said. “Right now I can say it doesn’t feel like what I’ve read. But once we go faster, I don’t know. It could feel better, it could feel worse. Right now, at this pace, the bike isn’t throwing any weird curveballs at me. It’s just me more or less getting up to speed and trusting the bike and myself again and stuff like that and we’re doing that right now in a good way. I mean, really the only thing on the front end that I’m kinda struggling with or notice is some chatter, but nothing steering, nothing bad or anything like that. but I don’t know if the chatter’s with all the other bikes or anything like that. Right now it’s just hard to give a real good explanation or talk about the bike’s potential, because this isn’t the test to know and push it to find out. But the general, the first impression isn’t bad at all. So it’s me at this test, that’s for sure.”