After a single season in MotoGP, Ben Spies is going to the big time, hiring on to the factory Yamaha team for 2011, filling the seat left vacant by Rossi's move to Ducati. In his rookie season, the 26-year old has already finished on the podium and is currently seventh in the rider's championship, three places ahead of veteran teammate and fellow texan, Colin Edwards. The move was likely prompted by more than Spies' riding prowess, having an American on the factory team should give Yamaha a big marketing push in the US. No word on whether the entire Yamaha squad plans on shaving their heads.
Here's Yamaha's official statement:
Ben Spies' solid debut season in MotoGP has been rewarded with confirmation that the American will ride for the factory Yamaha team in 2011. Having tested the early 2011 M1 prototype at the official Brno test Yamaha Motor Racing MD Lin Jarvis confirmed that talks were underway to bring the 26 year-old across from Hervé Poncharal's satellite team.
The form of Spies in his first season in the premier class has seen him take a podium finish at Silverstone and impress with strong results throughout the ten rounds to date, and in seventh position he is currently the highest placed rookie and satellite rider in the Championship standings.
"We're delighted that Ben will join the factory team for next season," said Jarvis. "Ben has shown great promise in his first ten MotoGP races. He has learnt rapidly and recorded strong results, including a well-deserved podium finish at Silverstone - impressive for someone in their first full season."
"We believe that Ben will be a future title contender and that he will be a good fit with our team. His mission next year will be to continue learning, consistently challenge for podium places and try to win some races. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Hervé Poncharal and the Tech 3 Team for taking care of Ben this season and for giving him such good training for the years ahead. I hope that he will repay them by getting some more podium results in the second half of this season and helping them to secure top satellite team status at the end of this year."
Spies was understandably delighted at the opportunity and outlined his aims for the future.
He said: "My first year in MotoGP has been a great learning curve and for that I have to thank Hervé Poncharal, all the team at Tech 3 and especially my American mechanics who have stuck by me throughout this great journey so far. Having previously been to only four of the ten tracks to date, I have to be pleased with where I am and with having achieved my first podium so soon. I'm especially pleased that Yamaha have recognised the potential in me and given me the opportunity to step up to the factory team so early in my GP career."
"I believe that by working closely with the Yamaha staff and my mechanics we will be able to help develop the M1 and make the next step of challenging for regular podiums, followed by future Championships."