Yamaha has confirmed that reigning World Superbike champion and 2010 MotoGP rookie Ben Spies will replace Valentino Rossi at the factory Yamaha team for 2011.

American Spies starts this weekend's Indianapolis Grand Prix, his second home race of the year, seventh in the world championship - making him the top satellite and rookie rider - and he is also the only rookie or satellite rider to take a podium finish so far this season.

The 26-year-old Texan already had a contract with Yamaha for 2011 - he signed a two-year contract with Yamaha Japan at the end of 2009 - the only question was which team he would ride for.

That question was solved when Rossi decided to leave the factory Yamaha team for Ducati at the end of this year, and it has since been the 'worst kept secret' that Spies would step up to replace him.

"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," said Spies.

"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."

Spies then seemed to hint that he will be taking 'his mechanics' with him to the factory team, which would suggest Rossi's crew - led by Jerry Burgess - could be leaving with the Italian.

"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," he declared.

"We're delighted that Ben will join the Factory Team for next season," said Lin Jarvis, Managing Director of Yamaha Motor Racing.

"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."

The announcement spoke only of 2011 - Spies does not seem to have had his present contract extended beyond that date.

The #11 will ride alongside Yamaha's 2010 title leader Jorge Lorenzo.

Lorenzo is yet to officially sign a new deal, but with Honda (Casey Stoner) and Ducati (Rossi) having already exhausted their budgets after a big new-signing each, the Spaniard is certain to stay at Yamaha.

Yamaha's World Supersport champion and rookie 2010 World Superbike race winner Cal Crutchlow looks to have a good chance of replacing Spies at Tech 3, which could need two new riders if Colin Edwards doesn't agree a new deal.


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