Ben Spies lauds Rea, reveals who he thinks will be a WorldSBK champion

2009 WorldSBK champion Ben Spies says Jonathan Rea immense comeback against Alvaro Bautista shows how no rider can afford to give up in the title fight

Ten years after clinching his own World Superbike Championship title from a losing position, Ben Spies has poured credit on Jonathan Rea for hauling himself back into contention in the 2019 WorldSBK fight against Alvaro Bautista.

Rea starts the final stretch of the 2019 WorldSBK season – 4 rounds and 12 races – with a commanding 81-point lead over Bautista, despite ‘only’ winning nine races to his Ducati rival’s 14.

With an error-strewn stint by the Spaniard – six crashes in nine races -  to blame for a total swing of 142 points, Yamaha’s 2009 WorldSBK champion Spies believes it will be incredibly difficult for the ex-MotoGP rider to get back on terms against such a consistent foe now.

“Myself and Johnny spoke a lot at Misano [when he was a long way behind] and he was in a position where it was a crunch weekend for him. 

“Luckily he has a lot of experience and race wins, and I told him ‘this is your weekend’ you have to win both and it might start turning around. Then Bautista had some problems and it was the biggest championship swing in history.

“A lot of people had written him off and now looked what happened. Racing is racing, it can change like that. He never gave up and he put himself in that position.

Ben Spies celebrates a decade since historic WorldSBK title

Indeed, Spies knows all about swings in fortune after breaking down an 88-point margin over the final 8 rounds (16 races) to win the 2009 World Superbike Championship in the first year for the ‘big bang’ Yamaha R1.

With rookie Spies going toe-to-toe with – appropriately enough – one of the most experienced riders on the grid in Noriyuki Haga, the 2009 WorldSBK title fight swung between the pair until a dramatic finale at Portimao.

Spies began the weekend ten points adrift of Haga, but it was wiped out when the Japanese rider suffered a technical issue on his Ducati, allowing the American – who won race one - to canter into the open goal in the final race of the year. 

It would prove to his only season in WorldSBK before he went straight up to MotoGP, where his star – which had him touted as a future champion – faded quickly on the back of injuries. He’d retire from the sport only four years later aged just 29.

Who is catching Ben Spies’ eye now?

Though he has respect for Rea – whom he is friends with – it is another Kawasaki rider that has actually captured Spies’ attention this season…

“Toprak’s [Razgatlioglu] got it going on! I love watching that man ride, he’s going to be a World Champion. If anyone is going to beat Johnny this weekend [in Portimao], it could be him.”

It's fitting then that Razgatlioglu will be emulating Spies with a move to Yamaha in WorldSBK 2020.

In Portugal this weekend to toast his ten years since winning the WorldSBK title – which remains Yamaha’s only riders’ championship at this level – a fully fit Spies has previously suggested he may return to racing in the near future, albeit in endurance competitions rather than international racing. 

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