The announcement came sooner than expected, but it was made official Friday at Indy: Ben Spies will pilot the Factory Yamaha bike for the 2011 MotoGP season. Spies, currently riding on the satellite Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team, will replace the vacancy left by nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi, who signed with Ducati for 2011.
Ben Spies says: "My first year in MotoGP has been a great learning curve and for that I have to thank Herve 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 recognized 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."
Spies, 26, is currently the leading rookie in the 2010 MotoGP Championship, sitting in seventh position with 90 points. The Texan also achieved a best result of fourth at the last round in Brno. At the same race in the Czech Republic, Spies placed his Yamaha second on the grid after some blistering qualifying times.
The managing director of Yamaha Motor Racing, Lin Jarvis, leaked the decision after the Brno testing last Monday, where Spies tried out a 2011 MotoGP Yamaha M1.
Lin Jarvis says: "We’re delighted that Ben will join the Factory Team for next season. 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 Herve 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, who also won the 2009 World Superbike Championship on a Yamaha YZF-R1, will be racing before a home crowd this weekend at the Red Bull Indy GP, Round 11 of the 2010 MotoGP Championship.