Yamaha Motor Racing managing director Lin Jarvis has played down speculation that reigning World Superbike champion Ben Spies could find his way onto a works team YZR-M1 in 2011 by insisting that the American has a lot to learn in his first full season of MotoGP.
Spies makes the switch from WSBK to MotoGP with the Tech3 Yamaha team, where he will partner countryman Colin Edwards, but has been mentioned in connection to a possible future with the marque's main Fiat-sponsored equipe
, particularly should the current partnership of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo reach a natural end this season.
Jarvis, however, refused to reveal if there was a definitive long-term plan in place for Spies, with a lot of unknowns set to play out during the 2010 MotoGP season.
"Ben has a two-year contract with Yamaha, so even in the 2012 season it is not yet determined in which team or programme he will be in," he pointed out, "Let's see, because this year the main issues in this sport will be the contractual negotiations for all of the four top riders. Both Vale and Jorge's contracts expire at the end of 2010 and it is the same for Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa, so nobody knows what will happen exactly in 2011. Our ideal vision at the moment would be to retain Vale and Jorge in the factory team and obviously Ben in the Tech3 Team.
"Ben has a learning year ahead of him. I think he is ready to enter into this class, but being ready and being ready to win are two different things. Ben will have one year to learn everything about the MotoGP world, there will be no pressure on him, certainly not from Yamaha's side. I think we will see some exciting races, and there is no doubt that he has the capacity to fight for the podium, but basically this is, step-by-step, a learning year. I think Ben will be in the top group, but I expect the top four will be one step ahead. I feel the competition will come more from Pedrosa or Stoner."
Jarvis also dismissed speculation, based on quotes attributed to Rossi, that the Italian and current team-mate Lorenzo would not be remaining in the same team beyond this season.
"I've heard this from other sources, but I have never heard this directly from Valentino," he insisted, "It is really difficult to say, but I think the negotiation will probably take place in the first half of 2010. Let's see - a lot depends on results and on riders' desire, so we will see at the end of 2010. At this moment, we have four very talented riders in Yamaha - in fact, we have three of the top five of the last season and, with Ben joining us, we have four great riders. Two of them are in their thirties, with Colin being 36 and Vale becoming 31. Then we have Ben who will become 26 this year and Jorge 23.
"It should be very interesting, the same as last year was interesting. The battle between the team-mates Jorge and Vale last year was one of the fascinations of MotoGP. I think it will be very similar in 2010. Obviously, they will start the season knowing that they are two of the main candidates for the title, and I believe we will manage [the situation] by the maturity of the riders. Luckily we have two very intelligent, mature riders, very professional and I believe that they will handle the situation as well as they did in 2009."