With the exception of reigning six time champion Valentino Rossi, Ben Spies is capable of stepping in and battling with the best in MotoGP.

That is the view of 1993 500cc world champion Kevin Schwantz, who has worked with Spies throughout his career.

Spies is presently locked in an exciting fight with Noriyuki Haga for the 2009 World Superbike Championship, having closed to within seven points of the Ducati rider with eight races to go.

But Spies only switched to WSBK, with Yamaha, after Suzuki turned down the chance to place the triple AMA champion in its MotoGP team.

Spies rode for Suzuki in three MotoGP rounds last season, finishing 14th (Donington Park), 8th (Laguna Seca) and then 6th (Indianapolis).

"Spies got a couple of shots last year on the Suzuki MotoGP bike. He didn't shine all that much at Laguna Seca. He did really well at Indianapolis, and he didn't have a great run at Donington, either, But having never been to Donington, I didn't really expect him to," said Schwantz.

After such a stunning debut season in WSBK, Spies is once again being linked with MotoGP.

"I think Ben, when given the right opportunity on the right team, can compete at the very top level [in MotoGP]," said Schwantz. "Whether he'll step in instantly and have something to try and show Valentino Rossi, I'm not sure about.

"But I think with the rest of the field, whether it's a Nicky [Hayden] or a Colin [Edwards] or a Lorenzo or any of the other guys out there who are competing up at the top, I think Ben has the heart and the motivation to do whatever he sets out to do.

"If he's given the shot on the right team, gets the right support guys behind him, I think the sky is the limit for Ben Spies," Schwantz declared.

Yamaha has indicated it would like to keep Spies in WSBK for one more season before moving him to MotoGP, but should the Texan clinch the title this year he may decide he has little to gain from staying on.

Despite his three MotoGP rides, Spies would be classed as a rookie in MotoGP and therefore unable to sign for a factory team (except Suzuki, which looks set to field Loris Capirossi alongside Alvaro Bautista next season).

Fortunately for Spies, the top satellite team in MotoGP is the Yamaha-backed Tech 3 squad.

Yamaha, keen to keep hold of its new star, would surely arrange a Tech 3 seat should Spies push hard enough for it, but the most important thing for Spies would probably be to get a two-year deal with Yamaha - with the second year at the factory team.

That will depend on what present Fiat Yamaha riders Lorenzo and Rossi decide to do. Rossi's contract expires at the end of next season, but he may race on, while Lorenzo is currently weighing up offers from Yamaha and Ducati for 2010.


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