By Stephen English
Ben Spies endured a miserable opening to the 2012 MotoGP season in Qatar, with the Factory Yamaha rider badly affected by chatter throughout Sunday's 22 lap race.
Yamaha team director, Massimo Meregalli, explained that the problem started to occur in the morning warm-up and that the team could not find a solution in time for the race.
"The chatter suddenly appeared on Ben's bike in warm-up and we couldn't solve it before the race," said Meregalli. "We're not sure why it was yet, but the engineers will work on it and we will try to ensure we have the problem solved by Jerez.”
Having qualified fourth, Spies had hopes of a podium but after just a handful of laps it was clear just how badly he was suffering. The Texan, sixth on lap one, had plummeted to eleventh by lap 10 of 22, where he remained at the finish.
Spies said, “From the parade lap and the warm-up lap for the race it felt like I had 'knobblies' [motocross tyres] on the bike the whole time."
With no confidence in the bike it was clear to the former World Superbike champion that damage limitation was his only option.
“I decided that I didn't want to trash three suits in a row and just tried to get some points,” commented Spies, who suggested on Twitter that bike damage from his practice falls had contributed to his race-day handling problems.
Either way, the weekend was one to forget. “It was pretty much a waste of a weekend, but the good point is that we know the bike is competitive. We know that it can beat Honda we just have to fix mine.”
Fellow Yamaha riders Jorge Lorenzo (1st), Cal Crutchlow (4th) and Andrea Dovizioso (5th) all finished in the top five at Qatar.
Spies now plans to recover the lost round at round two in Jerez, where the final MotoGP test was held in late March.
“We'll go to Jerez and hopefully have some new bikes which are working good. I feel good [about Jerez], we'll just know in a couple of weeks when we get to ride there. I'm confident in the bike, when its working good. We just need to get some stuff figured out and fixed for sure.”