Ben Spies will move to MotoGP with Yamaha for the 2011 season, it was announced on Friday.
The 2009 World Superbike Championship contender has agreed a new two-year deal with Yamaha which will see the Texan superstar remain in WSBK next season, before switching to MotoGP with Yamaha's satellite team (presently Tech 3) - as required by rules which ban rookies for signing for a factory team.
"I am very happy to say that I will remain a part of the Yamaha family," said Spies, "and that I will continue in the WSBK series for 2010. This is an exciting period of my racing career and I look forward now even more.
"Yamaha has been great in the warm welcome that I have received entering the world arena and I want to thank them for all they have done, and for giving me their trust for a next career step into MotoGP in 2011."
Spies had been hotly tipped to make the move to Tech 3 at the end of this year, should he clinch the WSBK crown. The triple AMA champion and WSBK rookie is just seven points behind Noriyuki Haga with four rounds to go.
Although Spies will not be able to ride for the official Yamaha MotoGP team in 2011, there are no restrictions on the type of machinery specification or level of factory support he can have within the satellite team.
"We are truly excited about the prospect of Ben's arrival into our future MotoGP program," said Lin Jarvis, managing director of Yamaha Motor Racing. "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,"
Spies rode in three MotoGP races for Rizla Suzuki last season, claiming a best finish of sixth in the wet at Indianapolis.
The news that Spies will remain in WSBK for one more season is good news for present Tech 3 riders Colin Edwards and James Toseland.
Edwards is the top satellite rider with fifth in the world championship, and a podium at Donington Park, while Toseland - the only Brit on the grid - is 13th.
Tech 3 Yamaha is the most competitive satellite team and holds fourth place in the 2009 teams' championship, behind only the factory Yamaha, Honda and Ducati outfits.
Yamaha, which has supplied bikes and factory support to Tech 3 since 1999 in the 250cc class, has a contract with Herve Poncharal's team until the end of the 2010 MotoGP season.