Japanese rider Wataru Yoshikawa will fill in for the injured Valentino Rossi beginning at the upcoming Catalunya Grand Prix. A two-time Japanese Superbike Champion, Yoshikawa currently serves as a test rider for the Yamaha YZR-M1 project. The decision to go with Yohsikawa runs contrary to many of the rumors circulating about the coveted empty Fiat seat.
Test rider Wataru Yoshikawa will fill in for the injured Valentino Rossi, contrary to rumors placing former Fiat Yamaha, current Tech 3 rider Colin Edwards on the seat.
The leading candidate, it seemed, was current Tech 3 Yamaha rider, Colin Edwards, with the Texan a former Fiat rider and Rossi teammate. One key cog in the Edwards move would have been filling the American’s Tech 3 seat. Sterilgarda Yamaha rider, World Superbike rookie and reigning World Supersport champ Cal Crutchlow’s name slotted in as a planned replacement, but as reported in our MotoGP Silverstone Friday Insider
Crutchlow passed on the opportunity to fill in at Catalunya, Sachsenring and Laguna Seca.
In a press release announcing Yoshikawa as the replacement rider, Managing Director of Yamaha Motor Racing, Lin Jarvis said of the decision:
“We have considered many different scenarios and candidate riders to fill the temporary vacant seat in the Fiat Yamaha Team. We had always planned to use a rider from within the Yamaha Motor and Tech 3 family but for each rider we considered who is in active competition, their move to the Fiat Yamaha Team would have created another problem for their own racing program or for the teams in which they are engaged. Finally, after a great deal of consideration, we have selected Wataru Yoshikawa, our Japanese YZR-M1 Test rider, to join us as our substitute rider. We provisionally plan for three races (Catalunya, Sachsenring and Laguna Seca) but we will adjust the plan accordingly when we know more about Valentino's expected date of return.
Number 46 will be out of commision until at least Brno, The Doctor is still recovering from his nasty Mugello highside.
"The benefit of Wataru's presence in our team will be threefold. Firstly he brings with him a wealth of experience riding the YZR-M1. Secondly his presence allows us to fulfill our contractual obligations and to join the team's quest to accumulate points for the Team Championship. Thirdly he will gain valuable first hand MotoGP race experience in three challenging circuits which will surely be very useful to assist him and Yamaha with the future development of the YMR-M1.
"We look forward to welcoming Wataru into our team while we wait for Valentino's return to full fitness."
Yoshikawa’s curriculum vitae, besides twice winning the Japanese Superbike Championship for Yamaha in 1994 and 1999, includes a full season in World Superbike, finishing ninth in the 1996 season. The 41-year-old rider also has one previous wild card MotoGP stint, placing 12th in the 2002 Japanese GP at Motegi.
"I'm happy to have this chance to stand-in for Valentino while he is recovering and to compete in MotoGP again for the first time since 2002, when I raced at Motegi,” said Yoshikawa in Yamaha’s official press release. “Looking at the Fiat Yamaha Team results with the 2010 YZR-M1, I can see that the winter developments were correct and now I am looking forward to having the chance to gather some ‘real racing' data, which will be very helpful for the future development of the M1."