With Ben Spies tearing up the World Superbike paddock and already being hotly tipped for the championship, talk has already started of a possible future in MotoGP. Though such talk is perhaps a little premature, just two rounds in the WSBK season, but it is clear that Spies has made a devastating impact, and looks almost certain to end up in MotoGP at some point in the future.
The question is, of course, just where he'll go. That he will stick with Yamaha goes without saying: In recent years, Yamaha has shown itself very astute at selecting riders with championship potential, but this very adroitness leaves the factory with something of a problem. With Valentino Rossi set to stay in MotoGP with Yamaha for at least two more years, and Jorge Lorenzo already his annointed successor, Yamaha's embarrassment of riches leaves them no room for Spies in the factory team.
Knowing that Yamaha will want to keep Spies on board, Tech 3 Yamaha boss Herve Poncharal has already launched a bid for the Texan's throttle hand. In an interview with the French automotive portal Caradisiac.com, Poncharal stated his hope of obtaining Spies' services for next season. "Frankly, Ben Spies has astounded me," Poncharal told Caradisiac.com. "It's obvious that he's an exceptional rider. I want to have him for 2010! We talked to him last year, just as we did with Simoncelli. Ben Spies has made a big impression so far, he has more than earned a place in MotoGP. It's obvious to me that he'll be there in 2010, and I hope it will be with us."
As Tech 3 already has a full complement of riders, the question is who will be making way for Spies at the end of the year. The general consensus is that Colin Edwards could retire from MotoGP at the end of the season and go back either to World Superbikes or to the AMA. But with the US national series in disarray, and little benefit to be gained in terms of a spending more time In the US by a switch to World Superbikes, Edwards may instead elect to stay in MotoGP another year.
This would put James Toseland in the firing line, and worryingly for the British ace, Poncharal was full of praise for Edwards: "Colin has great technical feel. He immediately got to grips with the Bridgestones, something which wasn't self-evident. Look at Lorenzo, it took him two days to start to match his times." On Toseland, Poncharal was a good deal more downbeat: "James has everything he asked for. We have given him perfect conditions for him to succeed. We now expect him to run with the other Yamaha riders. The only person who holds the key to his lack of performance is James himself."
Toseland's dumping of his former crew chief Guy Coulon in favor of Edwards' mechanic Gary Reynders has caused a good deal of bad blood with Edwards, and has also cost the Briton much of his political capital, both within the team and in the MotoGP paddock. Toseland will have to deliver this year, or there will be another Texan standing in line to take his place. And at the rate at which Ben Spies is progressing, JT will have to show the sparkling form he had in beating Troy Bayliss to the World Superbike championship if he is to keep his place in MotoGP.