Former world champion Nicky Hayden says Ben Spies should not underestimate the level of MotoGP when he joins the series from World Superbikes in 2010.
Spies made an immediate impact on WSB in his rookie season this year, winning 13 races to date and going into the final two rounds just 10 points behind championship leader Noriyuki Haga. He therefore decided to move straight into MotoGP with Tech 3 Yamaha next season rather than waiting until 2011 as originally planned.
Hayden expects Spies to be a big success in MotoGP, but believes the level of riding ability is significantly higher than in Superbikes.
"Is he going to make the same impact he made in World Superbikes? I don't think a guy shows up and starts dominating," said Hayden. "It's a different level. I've got a lot of respect for the Superbike series, and I've ridden with a lot of those riders, but still there's a difference here. It's deeper water.
"[Neil] Hodgson, [Ruben] Xaus, many guys [found it hard]... I think the transition was easier from Superbike to 990cc than to 800cc.
"It's a big step. I raced in World Superbikes as a wildcard and felt pretty good about myself, but I showed up here and I saw the level."
But Hayden believes his compatriot's arrival is great news for MotoGP.
"I think it's good he's coming – he belongs in MotoGP," he said. "MotoGP keeps its status of being the premier sport. He needs to be here.
"It will be exciting to see how he does. He'll make it – he's got talent, he's got determination, he's got a good Yamaha ride. He can cut it here."
Hayden also backed Spies' decision to move straight into MotoGP rather than spending a second year in Superbikes – even if he misses out on the title to Haga this year.
"I know he wants to be a World Superbike champion, and AMA and World Superbikes together will look cool on the resume, but if you want to be in MotoGP, I think he had to come now," said Hayden.