Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis is confident that Ben Spies will be a podium threat in his first full season in the MotoGP world championship.
After a record-breaking surge to the World Superbike championship last season, the Texan will partner fellow American Colin Edwards in the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 squad in 2010.
And Yamaha have high hopes for the triple AMA superbike champion, who impressed on his YZR-M1 debut in Valencia last year when he stormed through from 12th to seventh in the season’s final race.
Jarvis said: “Ben has a learning year ahead of him. I think he is ready to enter into this class, but being ready and being ready to win are two different things.
"Ben will have one year to learn everything about the MotoGP world, there will be no pressure on him, certainly not from Yamaha’s side.
"I think we will see some exciting races, there is no doubt that he has the capacity to fight even for the podium, but basically step-by-step a learning year.”
Spies has a two-year contract signed direct with Yamaha in Japan but Jarvis said it was too early to predict whether he could be lining up in the factory squad in 2011.
“Ben has a two-year contract with Yamaha, so eventually in the 2012 season it is not yet determined in which team or program he will be in.
"Let’s see, because this year the main issues in this sport will be the contractual negotiations for all of the four top riders because both Vale and Jorge’s contracts expire at the end of 2010 and it is the same for Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa. So nobody knows what will happen exactly in 2011.
"Our ideal vision at the moment would be to retain Vale and Jorge in the factory team and obviously Ben in the Tech 3 Team,“ added Jarvis.
With arguably three of the hottest talents in racing now all at Yamaha, Jarvis admitted it would be an interesting management challenge.
He said: “It should be very interesting, the same as last year was interesting. The battle between the team-mates Jorge and Vale last year was one of the fascinations of MotoGP. I think it will be very similar in 2010.
"Obviously they will start the season straight away at the first race, knowing that they are two of the main candidates for the title. I believe we will manage it by the maturity of the riders.
"Luckily we have two very intelligent, mature riders, very professional and I believe that they will handle the situation as well as they did in 2009.
"With regards to Ben coming onboard, I think Ben will be in the top group, but I expect the top four will be one step ahead.
"I feel more the competition from (Dani) Pedrosa or (Casey) Stoner.”