More important rider contract news was revealed this morning when Yamaha announced the signing of current World Superbike rider Ben Spies to a two year contract, with stipulations for a return next year to World Superbike and then a move to MotoGP in 2011 with a Yamaha satellite team (a new FIM rule requires that MotoGP rookies cannot move directly into a factory team, but must instead run their first year in a satellite team). This means that the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team seats are still up for grabs, as some were tabbing one of them to go to Spies next year. Current riders Colin Edwards and James Toseland have yet to finalize plans for next year, although of the two, Edwards’ better results presumably put him in better stead for coming back.
"I am very happy to say that I will remain a part of the Yamaha family and will continue in the WSB series for 2010,” said Spies. “This is an exciting period of my racing career and I look forward to even more. Yamaha has been great in the warm welcome that I have received entering the world level and I want to thank them for all they have done, and giving me their trust for a next career step into MotoGP in 2011."
Needless to say, Yamaha brass were very happy to have clinched a rider who is rapidly establishing himself as a future World Champion in either series. “We got to know Ben this season in our Yamaha World Superbike Team as a very talented, professional and dedicated person whom we are thrilled to continue working with,” said Laurens Klein Koerkamp, Racing Manager Yamaha Motor Europe. “Not only is the relationship between Ben, the team and Yamaha in general very successful but also it’s a pleasure to work with him. This early agreement permits Yamaha and Ben Spies to now fully focus on their 2009 World Superbike campaign in their challenge to achieve their first World Superbike Championship titles together.”
Lin Jarvis, Managing Director of Yamaha Motor Racing and the point man for Yamaha’s MotoGP efforts, is obviously salivating at the future of having one of the sport’s rising superstars helping to keep them on top in MotoGP. “We are truly excited about the prospect of Ben’s arrival into our future MotoGP program,” said Jarvis. “Ben is doing a great job for Yamaha in his first season in the World Superbike Championship. He is in great shape to challenge for the title this year and we will be rooting for him at the remaining four events this season. Ben’s primary mission is to win both his and Yamaha’s first World Superbike title. After that when Ben eventually makes the move to the MotoGP championship we will be ready for him and, in line with the new MotoGP regulations, we will create a place for him within the Yamaha satellite team and give him the support he needs for his next challenge.
What was notable in the press release was that the actual “Yamaha satellite team” in MotoGP that Spies will be joining in 2011 wasn’t specified. Although Monster Tech 3 Yamaha is currently the main Yamaha satellite squad, the proposed lease engine rules that are being negotiated between the MSMA and FIM/Dorna (Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta want the manufacturers to lease engines instead of complete bikes to private teams in order to ease the financial task of entering MotoGP) may increase the number of satellite team options for Spies when he moves to MotoGP in 2011.