Yamaha made its first official move back toward World Superbike when Russian team Yakhnich Motorsport announced it had signed British rider Sam Lowes to a three-year contract, starting next season in World Supersport on Yamaha Motor Europe-supported entry with an eventual climb to World Superbike.
Lowes will team with Russian Vladimir Leonov next season at Yakhnich. Lowes finished third this season in World Supersport for PTR Honda, with two victories.
Reports continue to flow from Europe that Yamaha already is working toward overhauling its YZF-R1 Superbike for a return to WSBK in 2014. The Crossed Tuning Forks withdrew their factory team from WSBK after the 2011 season.
Lowes is under contract through 2014. Yamaha has Valentino Rossi under contract for MotoGP through 2014, so many tongues are starting to wag in Europe about the possibility of a Rossi-Lowes pairing for a full-blown Yamaha assault on the WSBK championship in 2015. Rossi is a longtime fan of World Supers' close racing, something missing regularly today in MotoGP.
Yamaha Racing boss Lin Jarvis said a return to WSBK could be possible after Dorna makes expected rules changes to the series for 2014. And unlike nearly everyone in the WSBK paddock, Jarvis is encouraged by the rumored lower-spec technical rules for World Supers.
"We are not participating in World Superbikes right now, but that doesn't mean to say in the future we won't have interest," Jarvis told Euro media. "We were involved in almost every single racing discipline until last year, when we pulled out of World Superbikes.
"If the entry point is lower and more affordable, then it will increase the chance of us returning to the series. I think that production racing definitely has a place in the market, and World Superbikes needs the technical level of the machinery reduced. And if you do that, then you can also bring MotoGP down to a more affordable level of participation while also keeping a good show. If that's the result of Dorna's new ideas, then this can only be positive."