James Whitham Column - Oct 09

James can’t help be massively impressed by the phenomenon that is Ben Spies and his ability to learn and adapt. And an errant mouse causes him to lose a big sale...

Posted: 27 October 2009
by James Whitham

The season is in full swing so I’m away from home every weekend doing my Eurosport bit on either the WSB series or BSB championships. Ben Spies has been a revelation in the WSB class. I remember Mick Grant always talked about an old Kawasaki team mate of his back in the late 70’s called Greg Hansford. This blonde haired Australian could turn up at a circuit he’d never seen before, ask which way he should set off down pit lane and within five laps he’d broken the lap record.

Spies is the same. He’s qualified on pole for all but one of the WSB rounds so far this season. When I asked him at the recent Monza round what his technique was when learning a circuit he looked at me like it was obvious . . “there’s no technique, I just go as fast as I can . . all the time !”

Most riders at that level are super sensitive to how their bike is set up, but not him. Ben’s crew chief told him they had a choice of 24mm 25mm or 26mm yokes, but they could make any size he wanted should they not suit. He told them to fit the middle ones, the 25s, and he’d see how they were. He’s been using them ever since!

You have to feel a bit sorry for his team mate Tom Sykes. He too is new to the WSB paddock and most of the tracks, and has emerged as a solid performer, but is in the shadow of his American team mate.

Not that this has dented the Yorkshireman’s enthusiasm in any way you understand. Tom has just taken delivery of his new road bike, a Yamaha XV1900 Midnight Star. I followed him on my XR1200 Harley recently from his house at one side of Huddersfield to my place at the other. Going as fast as the Star’s meagre ground clearance would allow, sparks flying from the foot boards and grinning like a masturbating chimp, it was mesmerising to watch.

On the home front, my mum has a motor home that’s been slowly disappearing under a layer of moss outside my house for the last couple of years. She hasn’t used it so much lately, so I said I’d advertise it for her and see if we couldn’t sell it. An elderly couple answered the ad and asked if they could come and view it. We arranged a time and I had a quick look round it half an hour before they were going to arrive. I noticed some mouse poop on the carpet and in a panic dragged the vac and an extension cable out to get rid of the rodent evidence. They arrived smack on time in their Volvo seconds after I’d thrown the vac into the garage out of sight. A close thing.

This particular type of motor home has a bed that descends electrically from the ceiling at the push of a button. I considered the viewing to be going quite well until, at their request, I hit the button, lowering the bed to reveal a load of half eaten acorns, loads more mouse shit, and the mouse itself, quite dead, laying on the duvet!

The only thing I could think of to say in an attempt to defuse the situation was “you can tell how comfy the bed is, look . . the mouse is sound asleep!” Poor thing must have died in its sleep of acorn overdose. Suffice to say they didn’t make us a bid. Damn that mouse...

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