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.