Alvaro Bautista's Qatar debut ended with a broken leg in Free Practice 3, which required surgery to repair.
The Rizla Suzuki MotoGP
rider Alvaro Bautista underwent surgery following a high-side during the closing minutes of Friday’s Free Practice 3 at Qatar. Surgeons at the Doha hospital set the leg fracture and inserted a pin to stabilize it. Logistical problems have hindered Suzuki’s efforts to replace Bautista in time for Sunday’s race at Qatar.
John Hopkins was at Qatar earlier in the week, the former Rizla Suzuki GP rider turning laps on the GSV-R for a promotional photo shoot. Back in the States, Hopper couldn’t return to Qatar in time for the race. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan have wreaked havoc on travel, making Suzuki’s backup backup, Nobuatsu Aoki, also unavailable. Suzuki’s tenders to “several Moto2 riders with MotoGP experience” were turned down owing to their commitments in Sunday’s Moto2 race, which takes place right before the MotoGP main.
Tentative plans have Hopkins replacing Bautista for Round 2 of the MotoGP series, at Jerez, Spain. The American is committed to chasing the British Superbike Championship for Suzuki, however, which conflict with Round 3 and 4 of the GP calendar at Estoril and Le Mans.
As for Bautista, the lone official Rizla rider is slated to return to Madrid where he will begin his rehabilitation.
In a press announcement earlier this morning, Rizla’s team manager, Paul Denning, outlined the situation, including the cause of Bautista’s crash:
Finding a long-term replacement for Bautista is unclear, though Suzuki has announced it will not be able to field a rider for Sunday's race at Qatar.
“The 2011 season hasn’t yet started and to have this huge disappointment already is very difficult to deal with. The winter tests have been consistent and competitive, especially bearing in mind Álvaro’s ‘race-day’ mentality and his love of fighting with the other guys rather than just riding – we always expect more from him in the races than in the tests, so everything was looking good. The reason for the crash was quite simple - pushing too hard in this section without enough temperature in the new tire – very similar to Rossi’s accident in Mugello last year. But the real reasons behind that - maybe feeling some pressure after losing track time on Thursday night with the arm pump, wanting to get back into the top group of lap-times as soon as possible – are more complex and unfortunately Álvaro paid a heavy price. This sport is very extreme, and the edge between success and disaster is very small. We are all disappointed, but he is the poor guy in hospital with a pin in his femur and a tough recuperation ahead. He has the strength of character and determination to come back from this, and on his behalf we’d like to thank everybody for their kind wishes and support, especially the doctors and staff of the Clinica Mobile who came to the hospital at 2.00am last night to check on the situation and lend their valuable advice and assistance.
“With regard to the Qatar GP, we really wanted to find a suitable rider and have the Rizla Suzuki on the grid tomorrow but the logistics for John or Nobu simply didn’t allow it. Also, the Moto2 teams who have riders with MotoGP experience, that we discussed the option with, were understandably reluctant to release a rider at the first round of the championship. Our reason to explore these options was simply to support the Championship, Rizla and all our partners, but ultimately it is a huge ask to expect any rider to jump for only qualifying and the race and expect too much – safety and common sense have to play their part as well and we fully respect those decisions.
“John isn’t happy with what happened to Álvaro, but I know he will do a solid job for us in Jerez, and we are hoping to arrange a shakedown test beforehand. Álvaro’s comeback timing isn’t clear, and John has BSB commitments that clash with Estoril and Le Mans, so we need to wait a while before any decisions for those races are made.
“Thanks to all Álvaro’s and the team’s well-wishers, we greatly appreciate it and we will do everything we can to recover quickly from this situation.”