Valentino Rossi believes that World Superbike Champion Ben Spies has all the skills necessary to become a frontrunner in MotoGP in the future, but that he needs time to adapt to the machinery first.
Spies, who is making a wild-card entry this weekend on a factory Yamaha ahead of a full-time switch to MotoGP with Tech-3 next year, was 15th quickest in practice at Valencia, 2.2 seconds adrift of Casey Stoner's pacesetting time. Rossi said that the American's transition to MotoGP would be a gradual one, and that a lot would depend on gaining experience of the Bridgestone control tires.
"For me, it's just a question of time for Ben," said Rossi. "He needs time to understand the bike, all the electronic systems of the MotoGP machine, and especially the Bridgestone limit, because the Bridgestones are very different from normal tires. He'll need testing and lots of kilometers [on the bike] to reach a real level. I think he's strong and fast and will be very good, but he needs time and, for me, I think it's easier for Simoncelli, because a 250 is more like a MotoGP [machine] than a Superbike [is]."
Rossi, who wrapped up his seventh premier class world title in Malaysia last time out, was fourth quickest in the first practice session at Valencia, and took a trip through the gravel. He was nevertheless happy with his day's work.
"It's a good first practice," said the 30-year-old Italian. "Unfortunately, I'm in fourth position, but I'm quite happy about the settings. I tried the harder one at the end and the performance with it is not bad. It is a good start. We have to work to improve, but we are already quite competitive."