Since Colin Edwards finally wrapped up his contract to ride for Tech 3 Yamaha again next year, there's been little discussion of the situation at Yamaha, with all 4 seats firmly settled.
Or so it seemed. While the situation at Yamaha in MotoGP looked settled, the same could not be said for World Superbikes. The Yamaha Motor Italia team lost both its big name riders for next season, with Noriyuki Haga going to Xerox Ducati and Troy Corser joining BMW's fledgeling World Superbike effort. And so far, the team has only signed the British Superbikes star Tom Sykes to fill one of the seats.
So obviously, speculation has been rampant on who is to fill the other seat at the Yamaha factory Superbike team. Though Sylvain Guintoli tested for the team a week ago, the name that keeps popping up in this regard is the American Ben Spies. After Suzuki failed to provide him with the MotoGP ride he thought he had in the bag, Spies has been looking elsewhere, and specifically to other manufacturers, to provide him with a ride on the world stage.
But along with all the rumors linking Spies to the Yamaha World Superbike ride comes some even more intriguing speculation. During the BBC broadcast of the Motegi MotoGP round, commentator Matt Roberts mentioned that there was a strong rumor that Yamaha were trying to persuade Colin Edwards to give up his Tech 3 Yamaha seat and switch to World Superbikes to ride their brand new R1.
If this is true - and it would certainly make a lot of sense, given that the new R1 uses virtually the same firing sequence as Yamaha's M1 MotoGP bike - then the road could be cleared for Ben Spies to take Edwards' Tech 3 seat, and move into MotoGP.
Though unsubstantiated, the rumor has an irresistible logic to it. The Tech 3 team has struggled to obtain sponsorship in recent years, and Spies would be capable of bringing in a big name sponsor to the team. Tech 3 would again have 2 former Superbike champions on the Yamaha, with James Toseland able to help Spies make the transition to MotoGP, much as Edwards did for Toseland. And Yamaha would get the acknowledged bike development skills of Colin Edwards for their brand new R1 superbike, something they will need if they are to make the bike competitive quickly.
When contacted, Yamaha's World Superbike team would only confirm that they were interested in having ride the new R1, and expected to make an announcement about their 2nd rider later this week.