Sunday, October 17

SPIES EYES ROOKIE PRIZE

MONSTER Yamaha Tech 3 rider Ben Spies will launch his bid to clinch the Rookie of the Year title from the front row of the grid in today's Australian MotoGP race.

The Texan produced another excellent qualifying performance at a blustery Phillip Island. Spies' confidence ahead of qualifying was sky high after he recorded third fastest time in Saturday morning's practice session. And the former World Superbike champion was always a major threat to record his third front row of an amazing debut season after a terrific start to Saturday afternoon's qualifying session.

Spies crew made further adjustments to the suspension set-up on his YZR-M1 to gain crucial rear grip at the technical and spectacular 4.448km track. The modifications paid immediate dividends with Spies never outside of the top three once a lap of 1.31.387 put him on top of the time sheets with just 19-minutes completed.

In sunny but cool and breezy conditions that saw air temperatures marginally higher than Friday at 12 degrees, the 26-year-old then posted a lap of 1.31.386 to consolidate his place in the top three.

But his bid to try and challenge for a repeat of his Indianapolis pole position was foiled when light rain spots began to fall on the picturesque Phillip Island circuit. Each time Spies commenced a fast lap on the softer compound Bridgestone rear tyre, he noticed rain spots on his visor.

Avoiding taking unnecessary risks, he backed off but his earlier time still secured him a front row start for the 27-lap race.

"I'm really happy to be on the front row again but a little bit surprised. I was really happy with my pace and the lap times earlier in the session but each time I tried to go quicker in the last part I'd have spots of rain on my visor. I'd warm up the tyres and see nothing but as soon as I'd push going into the first corner to start a fast lap, I was getting a lot of rain on my visor.

"I didn't want to take a big risk when I knew I was already pretty close to the front row. My qualifying time is a pace that I can run in the race, so I'm happy with that. I'm confident because I haven't finished a session thinking I put in a great session. So if we can put everything together and ride really well and the bike is working good, maybe I can fight for the podium.

"I've got the lap time to make the podium but I just want to make the bike better for the last ten laps of the race. It would be nice to clinch the Rookie of the Year title. It would be another box ticked in what has been a really positive season so far."