American Ben Spies Back on Familiar Ground in Superbike World Championship Event at Miller Motorsports Park TOOELE VALLEY, UTAH (May 25, 2009) -- When the HANNspree Superbike World Championship arrived at Miller Motorsports Park last year for ...
American Ben Spies Back on Familiar Ground in Superbike World Championship Event at Miller Motorsports Park
TOOELE VALLEY, UTAH (May 25, 2009) -- When the HANNspree Superbike World Championship arrived at Miller Motorsports Park last year for its first North American appearance since 2004, there were no Americans competing in the series full-time.
Things are different this year.
Ben Spies, a 24-year-old from Texas, made the jump to the world stage for 2009 after winning three consecutive titles in the AMA Superbike Championship. He has taken the series by storm, winning pole position at all six events to date, all at tracks he had never raced on before in his life. Out of 12 races (two per event) to date, he has five wins, one second and one third and is currently third in the championship.
His results have, admittedly, been somewhat feast-or-famine. When he hasn't finished on the podium, he has crashed (twice, once while leading and once while running third), been run off the track (twice), run out of fuel while leading on the last lap (at Monza, Italy) or had his shift lever break while leading (at Kyalami, South Africa).
Despite that, where once pundits were wondering whether he would be able to win a single race in his rookie World Superbike season, now they are wondering whether he can win the World Championship.
Coming to Miller Motorsports Park should offer some reassurance for the tough Texan. In the six AMA Superbike races held here since the track opened in 2006, Spies has won five. Since the HANNspree Superbike World Championship Utah USA round is the series' only North American appearance of the season, this is for all intents and purposes Spies' "home" track.
"It's going to be good to be on a track I'm familiar with," Spies said of Miller Motorsports Park. "It'll be nice to go back and spend a little time at home and catch up with friends and family. I'm confident we can have a good result at Miller. I want to do what I can to win as many races as possible and see if by some miracle we can make a comeback in the series."
Not only will he be racing on a track he knows well, there will also be some familiar faces in the field. AMA star Jamie Hacking, one of Spies' best friends, has been tapped as a replacement rider for injured Makato Tamada on the factory-backed Paul Bird Motorsport Kawasaki team. Hacking, who raced in World Superbike as a Wild Card entry at Laguna Seca in 1998 and 1999, finished second to Spies in both AMA Superbike races here last year.
"I rode World Superbikes back when I first started racing, at Laguna Seca," Hacking said. "Obviously, a lot has changed and I have more experience. I can't really say what a realistic expectation would be without riding the bike, but Miller does seem to suit my style. Last year, it was our best track on the ZX-10R and I hope that we can try for a top ten."
Also, Honda rider Jake Zemke, the only man other than Spies to win an AMA Superbike race at Miller Motorsports Park (2006), will be riding in relief of injured fellow Californian John Hopkins for the privateer Stiggy Honda Racing team. Hopkins, who raced in MotoGP for the past eight years, moved over to World Superbike at the third round in Valencia, Spain, becoming the second full-time American in the series. Unfortunately, he crashed in the opening practice session at Round 4 in Assen, The Netherlands, suffering a dislocated hip and fractures in his ankle and foot that have sidelined him since.
With three well-known American riders in the field, plus such well-known international stars as Japan's championship-leading Noriyuki Haga (Ducati), Italy's Max Biaggi (Aprilia), Australia's Troy Corser (BMW) and Spain's defending race winner Carlos Checa (Honda), fans are in for what is shaping up to be the best motorcycle racing weekend of the year in North America.