Along with Valentino Rossi, the biggest surprise in terms of poor results so far this season has been the form of Factory Yamaha star Ben Spies.
With a first grand prix win under his belt last year and impressive pace during winter testing on the new 1000cc M1, the American looked set to be a regular podium threat from the start of 2012
Instead Spies heads for this weekend's fourth round at Le Mans just eleventh in the championship standings, but is optimistic his eighth place at Estoril marked the start of a fight-back to the front.
“I'm looking forward to getting back on the bike again this week,” said Spies, sixth at Le Mans last year. “My confidence has been rebuilding well now we've found a good set up that works so I think we can make another step and improve our performance again at Le Mans. It's not my favourite track but I'm going to give it 100% as always to achieve a good result on Sunday.”
Team director Massimo Meregalli believes Spies will join team-mate Jorge Lorenzo at the sharp end of the field in France.
“Ben has not had an easy start to the year but has been working hard with the team to have a competitive set up and to rebuild his confidence. I am sure we will see him fighting with the front pack this weekend,” he declared.