The 2010 World Superbike season is a moment of truth for Yamaha.
There is little more to say about the 2009 season that hasn't already been said, save for a niggling question that can only be answered once the new year gets underway – was it the Yamaha factor or the Ben Spies factor that drove them to a first-ever World Superbike title last season?
Indeed, while much was being made of Spies' switch to World Superbikes prior to 2009, it was the 'big bang' R1 that did much of the talking initially. However, with Spies re-writing the rule books for rookies as the season progressed, the emphasis seemed to shift to the difference being a truly exceptional rider.
Well, the two factors have now been separated for 2010, with Spies seeking his fortune on the MotoGP stage, leaving Yamaha to defend its crown with an all-new rider pairing – James Toseland and Cal Crutchlow.
Much has been said about the new line-up, with two prodigious British talents meeting in the middle having come from two very different directions.
The safe money is naturally on Toseland, a former double champion, to out shine World Superbike rookie Crutchlow, but the difference between the two has been minimal in testing so far.
Testing itself has been a mixed bag, with both riders showing decent form at Portimao, but appearing to struggle to get the bike dialled in at Phillip Island.
Even so, racing and testing demand different approaches though and it is here where Toseland is expected to exert his experience, at least initially, even if it remains to be seen whether his two less than forgiving years in MotoGP has dented his confidence slightly.
Confidence is something Crutchlow isn't lacking having won the 2009 World Supersport Championship, breaking Honda's seemingly impenetrable deadlock in the process, and it isn't bold to suggest he will be an eventual challenger for race wins.
But what of Yamaha's 2010 chances?
While it isn't right to assume the team's 2009 World Superbike win was solely down to man or machine – both Yamaha and Spies were class acts – the American's reputation stands something to gain should the new riders, Toseland especially, not engineer a title challenge from the opening round…
Elsewhere, other developments have seen Yamaha secure title-backing from Sterilgarda in 2010, a promising development on the finance front following the manufacturer's decision to wind up its Supersport operation.
What Yamaha will lack, however, is strength in numbers, with no full-time satellite representation for the second year in succession. Plans had been in place for Stiggy Racing, who did wonders with Honda in 2009, to secure a pair of R1s prior to the team being wound down due to financial issues.