Monster Yamaha Tech 3 boss Herve Poncharal has revealed that Cal Crutchlow is "the favourite" to replace Ben Spies, should the Texan be moved to the factory Yamaha team in place of Valentino Rossi for 2011.
An announcement on Sunday evening at next weekend's Brno round is expected to confirm that Rossi will leave Yamaha for Ducati at the end of this season.
Yamaha should also announce that its 2010 title leader Jorge Lorenzo will remain with the team next year, and that Spies - already under contract with Yamaha for 2011 - will be moved from Tech 3 to take Rossi's place.
Tech 3 will thus need to find at least one new rider - possibly two if Colin Edwards makes a rumoured switch back to WSBK to lead the factory Ducati team - and, during an interview with French website moto.caradisiac.com
, Poncharal went through a process of elimination of the possible riders.
First to be ruled out was Repsol Honda's Andrea Dovizioso, who could be forced out of the factory team by Casey Stoner's arrival. The Italian has recently been linked to Tech 3, but Poncharal declared a Dovizioso deal to be "interesting, but impossible" since Dovi has "a concrete contract with HRC to get an official bike in 2011 due to his results".
That official bike may not be run by the factory team - a switch to Honda Gresini is thought likely - but Poncharal thinks the chances of Dovizioso moving to a satellite Yamaha team for "a quarter of his current salary" are non-existent.
The next name offered was Moto2 title leader Toni Elias, who was also quickly dismissed. "For sure he is having a good season in Moto2, but don't forget that he is there because nobody wanted him in MotoGP."
Rizla Suzuki's Loris Capirossi, rumoured to be heading for Pramac Ducati in 2011, is also not in contention, while Tech 3's Moto2 rider Yuki Takahashi is likely to stay in Moto2.
As the only Frenchman in MotoGP, Randy de Puniet - who had been the top satellite rider prior to his leg-breaking fall at Sachsenring - is periodically linked to Tech 3, but Poncharal thinks he will remain at LCR Honda. "He has every incentive to stay with HRC. And Lucio Cecchinello greatly needs him."