World Superbike newcomer Ben Spies brought his latest outing aboard the Yamaha R1 to an impressive close during testing at Kyalami by posting the second quickest time over the three days.
Having made an immediate impression at Portimao last month, Spies was once again in fine form at Kyalami, the three-time AMA Superbike Champion belying his rookie status to be second quickest on the first day out around the South African circuit.
Although the next day was blighted by an accident that heavily damaged his bike, Spies was able to gather himself up to join only Michel Fabrizio and Noriyuki Haga in the 1min 39secs bracket on the third and final outing.
With Spies already getting amongst more experienced WSBK competition, there is an increasing sense that he could be an outside title contender in 2009. With that in mind, he is already looking ahead to the opening round in Australia with interest.
“I'm really happy with the bike, the team and the progress we're making,” he said. “This was the first time we had the opportunity to go out and size ourselves up against everyone in a major test. We're ahead of where we thought we'd be at this point.
“There are two more test sessions this winter and I expect the bike will continue to improve as we move towards the season opener at Phillip Island in March.”
Spies also took the opportunity to gauge the differences between WSBK and the AMA series, with the American rider pointing out that there is more professionalism on the world stage.
“In AMA there might be two or three guys in testing who get down to business from start to finish,” he added. “There's no lollygagging here. No one's going around doing wheelies the length of the straightaway. Everyone pushes hard here all the time. The competition is going to be good for sure.”