Following Wednesday's announcement that Ruben Xaus and Toni Elias will ride for the Tech 3 Yamaha team next season, the future of Norick Abe - one of the team's 2004 riders - remains uncertain.

Abe rode alongside Marco Melandri at Herve Poncharal's factory supported outfit this season, but while Melandri has already moved to Telefonica Honda, Abe is yet to announce his future.

The Japanese rider stunned the 500cc world when he battled for victory as a 19-year-old wild-card in the 1994 Japanese Grand Prix - a performance that would see him gain a full time GP ride the following season.

Norick has been a Yamaha rider ever since, claiming three premier-class victories for the marque. His race career was briefly halted for 2003, when he stepped down to the role of factory test rider for the YZR-M1 project - but still competed as a wild-card and substitute rider in several events - before he returned to full time competition with Tech 3 this year.

However, Abe's best finish in 2004 was just seventh (twice) and he finished 13th in the final world championship standings - the lowest of the four Yamaha riders.

The 29-year-old's options now look limited to a return to the role of Yamaha M1 test rider, a possible place at Fuchs Kawasaki - should they find the budget to enter a third rider in 2005 - or a race seat in another series.

While the former may be most likely, it is no secret that Yamaha aim to claim every major motorcycle racing championship next year to celebrate their 50th anniversary. As such, Abe's talents might be more appreciated by Yamaha in a racing role.

With all the company's 2005 MotoGP seats now occupied, the Japanese factory could well want Abe to contest either the World or British Superbike championships. The AMA Superbike series is not thought to be a realistic option.

In WSBK there will be two factory assisted Yamaha teams in 2005 - Yamaha Italia and Yamaha France.

Yamaha Italia have recently tested with the first of their new two riders, Andrew Pitt, at Valencia. Pitt's team-mate is expected to be Noriyuki Haga, with an announcement expected at the end of December when his current Renegade option is believed to expire.

Yamaha France is expected to field only one rider in 2005, in the form of Sebastien Gimbert, who gave the team's R1 an impressive debut with two fourth places in the final round at Magny-Cours.

However Crash.net's 'Secret Squirrel' source has indicated that Yamaha France is currently in discussion as to whether a second rider would be financially viable, with Abe believed to be in the picture for the possible ride.

A WSBK move would provide Abe with the chance to race on many circuits he already knows - but 'Secret Squirrel' has more interestingly indicated that Abe could actually be placed in BSB, the series in which countrymen Yukio Kagayama (Rizla Suzuki) and Ryuichi Kiyonari (HM Plant Honda) won races this season.

Virgin Yamaha are currently the only team to field Yamahas in British Superbikes (not including BSB Cup teams), but the team is independent of the Yamaha factory and has already decided its three rider line-up for next year.

However, the source claims that Team Nvidia, who operated as a GR Motorsport run British 125cc team this season - and who have already confirmed their 2005 Superbike intentions to Crash.net - will be fielding a new generation R1, similar to that used by Yamaha France at Magny-Cours, in BSB next year.

Nvidia are said to have every possibility of becoming a Satellite Yamaha team and so get factory support from the Japanese firm to help challenge for the British crown. Should this support happen, Yamaha are likely to want a top level rider to complete the package, and Abe would surely be near the top of such a list...