Mary Spies on Ben, crashing and being a bad mum

We’ve had enough of ‘motocross dad’ Now we’re most proud to introduce… SUPERBIKE MUM! She’s tough, she’s feisty, she’s always there for Ben... she’s Mary Spies

I was really a bad mom, he wanted a bike so bad
The first dirtbike we got him I made sure it had a clutch and wasn’t an automatic. Ben wasn’t coordinated as a child, so I knew that would screw him and he’d quit right then. Also he didn’t like noise and the bike was quite loud, so I thought that would do it. Well, he mastered it. My heart flopped.

When he had his first race at the age of nine I knew
It was actually against the rules. I didn’t know that at the time, my boyfriend filled in the entry. He changed some things on the form… Ben actually crashed in the first race, or the bike broke, I can’t really remember, but it was a thrill for him. Unfortunately he had to wait for the next year to race regularly because he was too young. He became an expert in the CMRA (Central Motorcycle Roadrace Association) and at 12 an expert in WERA (Western Eastern Racing Association). And in both classes he was the youngest ever to become an expert. At this point I felt like he was a champion, I didn’t have any doubt, it was just going in that direction.

The first time he really had a horrible crash
He just laid there I went running over to him and said ‘are you all right?’ He said ‘yeah’ so I said, ‘I’ll tell you what, the next time you lay still like that and don’t let me know you are okay I’ll kill you, so we won’t have to worry about it! Jump up and let me know you’re okay next time.’ I think the crash stunned him, but it scared me.

A lot of people said I wasn’t a fit mother for allowing a minor to do something very dangerous
I had some dark comments and dark days. But the way I saw it was if you love your kids, how could you stop them from doing something that is their oxygen, what they want to be?

Ben had two incidents as a teenager that were tough
We lost his team-mate, Ryan Smith, in a race when he was 14. It was so hard to go through the motions that weekend, that month. Ben spoke to me going up to a race after Ryan had been killed and said ‘I know you love me, and I know you support me, but I also know you have something on your mind. Don’t ever say it to me, don’t ever think it, don’t ever do it to me. I know what you are thinking and I know what happened, I would always be sorry if something happened to me and I caused you so much pain as what Ryan’s family is going through, but you would cause me more if you made me stop.

The second incident was a bad, bad, crash
It was about five or six years ago. It was horrible, I was looking into his eyes in the emergency room. He was in a bad shape, and he just said ‘don’t go there, I know what you are thinking, don’t. I need you to be my friend right now and stick with me, it’s going to be tough, but let’s get through this. I’m not going to stop racing.’ What do you do? In that crash he got hurt bad, Daytona Florida owns his ass, it sheared half of it off! One cheek was completely sheared off and it looked like someone had taken three large ice cream scoops out of his flesh. I can still smell it. He was on fire when we got to him, his leathers were smoking and he was burning. The paramedics weren’t very good, so I just pushed them aside and helped him myself. My mothering instinct took over and I tell you, I owned that hospital when we got there.

My heart broke when he raced after the Daytona crash
He tested at Laguna Seca and there was something missing. I thought, ‘how do we get through this, he’s lost his spirit, his soul.’ ?He was actually laying down on the wall after he’d been riding the bike and I called Kevin Schwantz and said ‘I think we’ve got a problem,’ ?I needed to know if he was done in his heart, worried or frustrated with the bike, his weakness.

They were questions I couldn’t ask as a mum, he needed a racer ?or someone he respects. Kevin went over and spoke to him and went, ‘No, his head’s all right, he’s just weak. He’s destroyed because he worked so hard to get to this point and now he’s so weak from being in hospital.’ I thought, okay, now we can go forward, and we got him a trainer and went from there.

I have a lot of confidence in Ben and the things he does and I’m really proud of him when I watch him on track
But I’m also happy because I know he’s doing the thing he ?loves to do. I try to keep those thoughts with me the whole time ?he’s on track because he’s living the life he chooses to live and ?he’s happy.

They play hardball on track and I understand that
I think there’s a great amount of respect between riders, which is ?why I can take it, because it’s not intended to be ugly. It’s a shame I can’t say that about some of the experiences we had in AMA. That’s ?a totally different ball game…

I really did not want to travel the world with WSB
I had no desire to go anywhere, I saw the world when I was in my twenties with my family, we did a big trip, came to Europe and, well, big screen TVs do it so well! I really didn’t want to travel, and that was the negative for me. I enjoy being around my sisters, my animals and I’ve only been able to see the family farm for a few days a year, which is sad. Did I want to travel? No I didn’t. Am I having fun? I can’t say I’m having fun, but I love it, if I could get my sisters and dogs over here I’m never going back. I’m not going out and partying. I’m just enjoying the reality of being in different places.

Travelling, and living the life that Ben and myself do, is hard. The family is getting older and Ben has had to make tough decisions. His grandmother, his dad’s mum, was trying to pass away and it looked like it was going to happen at Daytona. Ben went to see her by himself and had a long talk with her. He said he knew she wasn’t doing too good and he had things to tell her and he spent the morning with her, then he went racing, at her request. She made it that weekend, but after Ben went to California she passed away.

This life is hard
Ben can’t be there for everyone’s wedding, the birth of his cousin’s babies, many of those family events. these guys all make sacrifices for their passion. I have a lot of respect for them for that, and their crews who make the same sacrifices. I will go to every race that Ben Spies is in – unless I’m dead.