For the last two seasons, the only questions about Ben Spies’ inaugural MotoGP victory were where and when—never if. The second World Superbike graduate to top a MotoGP podium, Spies is the first American to stand there since Nicky Hayden won the 2006 United States Grand Prix at Laguna Seca. And he couldn’t have picked a better time or place than round seven of the 2011 championship.
Assen, Holland, is the Cathedral of Racing, the second-fastest circuit on the schedule behind Australia’s Phillip Island and the only one to host a world championship round since the beginning in 1949. Thus it was the perfect setting for Yamaha to celebrate its 36 world titles and more than 450 GP victories in the 50 years since May 1961. Looking to show the factory brass what you’re made of? Pull off a wire-to-wire win in commemorative red-and-white livery at their Golden Anniversary—from second on the grid, just to give everybody else a chance.
Once Marco Simoncelli took out Jorge Lorenzo on the other factory Yamaha YZR-M1, Spies checked out, pulling a 2-second gap on Casey Stoner’s Honda RC212V. With Stoner more interested in protecting his points lead than running down the Texan, Spies won the 28th Grand Prix he’d contested by 7.7 seconds.
The only remaining question is when he’ll do it again.