Ben Spies admits he performed better than he expected on his Yamaha MotoGP debut in Valencia after qualifying inside the top ten, finishing seventh and showing off some overtaking ability on the way.

The American was making his long-awaited debut with the manufacturer at the season-ending round in Spain, riding a sole Sterilgarda-backed M1 before he officially embarks on his career as a full-time rider in 2010.

While the weekend represents his fourth MotoGP start following three outings with Rizla Suzuki in 2008, Spies still went into the round with no prior experience of the M1. Nonetheless, he belied this by qualifying in ninth position, ahead of the man he replaces at Tech 3 next season, James Toseland.

Getting a good start from the third row of the grid, Spies admits his lack of miles sampling the Bridgestone race tyre was to blame for him slipping to a low of 12th early on, not to mention his own personal target of reaching the chequered flag unscathed.

"I actually got a decent start, but I still need more time on the tyres to understand what I can do in the early laps," he said. "I got shuffled back and a lot of that was because I stuck with the idea that this weekend was more or less an extended test for me and I didn't want to be too aggressive. I definitely didn't want to do anything risky, so I was riding cautiously."

However, Spies began to push on as the race progressed, his greater comfort on the bike allowing him to display some adept overtaking manoeuvres over the likes of Marco Melandri, Mika Kallio, Alex de Angelis and Randy de Puniet.

"I actually felt more comfortable with the tyres the farther along we went in the race," he said. "My lap times kept getting better and I turned my fastest lap on the final lap of the race so I felt pretty good abut that.

"The passes all felt safe," Spies said. "I think I could have passed some in that group a little earlier had I been a little more aggressive, but I just wanted to keep everything well within my limits.

"Things settled out late in the race and I think a lot of riders were just trying to maintain their position. I kept pushing trying to explore the limits a little more all the way through to the end, so that's why I think I was able to catch some riders there at the end."

Putting himself into the top ten, Spies promptly set his sights on factory Repsol Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso, snatching seventh position off him six laps from the finish. Unbeknown to him at the time, Spies' pass on the Italian would ensure that future team-mate and fellow Texan Colin Edwards would help him to finish fifth in the overall standings.

"Colin came over and gave me a big hug after the race," Spies laughed. "He sort of jokingly told me that I might be able to help him beforehand and I'm glad it worked out that way."

Speaking of the weekend and the bike as a whole, Spies confesses he finished higher than he initially anticipated. It is a result that has got him excited about what the future holds.

"I still have a lot to learn, but I think overall I did better than I expected. I really would have been happy with a tenth-place finish and that's about where I thought I'd be, but by continuing to ride hard all the way I was able to improve a few positions."

"The bike is so good it's amazing what you can do with it," he continued. "I'm looking forward to getting more time on the bike in testing and really seeing if I can come to grips with what the bike is capable of.

"I'm looking forward to the tests and getting a good base under me for next season. Then I'll head home for a few weeks and try to relax and sort of decompress from this season. It's been a rewarding year for sure. Winning World Superbike and then getting the opportunity to get some time on the GP machine. It's been great, but it's been exhausting as well."

In terms of top speed, Spies had a bike on a par with the factory Fiat Yamahas at Valencia - and actually set the highest M1 top speed of the weekend in FP2 - while the Tech 3 machines of Edwards and Toseland were consistently at the back of the speed charts.


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