Yamaha rider standings after 7 rounds, 14 races
Ben Spies, Yamaha WSB
Tom Sykes, Yamaha WSB
David Checa, Yamaha GMT 94
Few rookies come to the World Superbike Championship with as much of a reputation as Ben Spies. The American has been tipped for super stardom for some years having swept all before him at home and being regularly mentioned in association with a MotoGP ride. However, Suzuki's loss has certainly been Yamaha's gain because Spies has been a revolution for the World Superbike Championship.
The statistics don't lie. Seven pole positions, seven race wins (50 per cent of this year's races thus far) and second in the standings for a rider who doesn't know the vast majority of the circuits he's visiting is a remarkable achievement. There have been moments that have stymied his early title-winning capabilities, namely his crashes at Valencia and Assen, but bike woes at Monza and Kyalami haven't helped matters either.
The signs are all there that Spies has the potential to dominate at this level. An unbroken run of pole positions, his dominance at circuits he does know (Miller Motorsports Park) and an ability to go toe-to-toe – and win - against the likes of Noriyuki Haga as he did at Assen, reveals he has all the ingredients to be a winner. While it might not happen this year, rivals might be hoping Spies does answer the MotoGP call if and when it comes…
On paper, Spies and his team-mate Tom Sykes started on level footing. New team, new bike, new circuits… However, the results have certainly been different. In his defence, Sykes hasn't been riding Superbikes for as long and his unfailing ability to bring the bike home is impressive given his status as a newcomer.
Up to fifth in the standings at one stage this season, it is the fact that Sykes is yet to reach the podium that haunts him as he heads into the second phase of the season. Indeed, Sykes has been the epitome of solid, qualifying and racing fairly well, which remains important in the early stage of his WSBK career. In fact, it is Spies' fault that Sykes' ability is really being doubted, but provided he is viewed in isolation, the former BSB race winner is doing a good job.
Yamaha's sole satellite effort remains the GMT 94 team, although they only joined the series three rounds in at Valencia. Down to one bike and with David CHeca at the helm, the Spaniard failed to score in the events he competed and would be absent for the South Africa and USA rounds. On those occasions substitutes Shaun Whyte and Erwan Nigon got a chance to impress, although the team are still looking for their first points.