Massimo Meregalli has spoken about how impressed he was with World Superbike debutant Ben Spies during post-season testing, the Yamaha Italia team manager going on to say that he is confident his form will continue through to 2009.
Yamaha have taken a gamble on their rider line-up for next year after signing the rookie pairing of Spies and Tom Sykes to replace two of the series' most experienced competitors Troy Corser and Noriyuki Haga.
Nonetheless, multiple AMA Champion Spies showed he doesn't take long to acclimatise to the world series by getting immediately on the pace around the Portimao circuit, despite having never experienced the bike of the circuit before.
It means Spies is already being tipped for great things in 2009, a sentiment that is shared by team boss Meregalli.
"Ben Spies showed his qualities right from the start,” he told the World Superbike website. “He is a determined guy but has his feet firmly on the ground. He wants to do things in stages, and is already hard at work. He looked impressive on the bike, and without knowing the track he was already lapping at Haga's race pace on day 2.
“As for Tom Sykes, he concentrated mainly on establishing a good feeling with the bike and all things considered his times were satisfactory.”
While a ride in MotoGP had long been expected, Meregalli insists Spies is more than happy to be racing in World Superbikes instead, particularly as his primary aim for 2009 was to move to a top team, regardless of the championship.
"He wanted a professional team and a competitive machine and when we made a proposal to him, he didn't waste much time in accepting. He decided to come to SBK because he wants to win and joining Yamaha seemed like an excellent opportunity".
Key to Yamaha's success next year, however, is likely to come down to how quickly Spies and Sykes learn their way around a calendar made up of circuits they haven't seen before. Nonetheless, Meregalli remains unconcerned about the challenge they face.
"I feel sure that top riders know where to put the bike on the track after a couple of practice sessions,” he added. “The tests at Portimao were a clear demonstration of this. Both Ben and Tom will be put in the best conditions to be very competitive right from the start.”