Yamaha has officially announced that factory test rider Wataru Yoshikawa will be replacing Valentino Rossi at the next rounds of the MotoGP series, starting at the Catalan GP in Barcelona. The move comes after much speculation was created about whom would take the place of the Italian GP Champion, after his crash at Mugello. Yoshikawa is a former Japanese SBK Champion (1994 & 1999), and his ridden as a GP wild card numerous times for Yamaha.
The 41-year-old will race for Fiat-Yamaha starting after this weekend at Assen, and will continue to ride for the factory Yamaha squad until Rossi’s return, which is expected to be at least for another three races after the Dutch TT. However rumors put Rossi’s return as likely to occuring at Brno.
With such an important and coveted position there was rumors that Colin Edwards, Cal Crutchlow, James Toseland, and even Ben Spies might take the spot at the factory squad, but all of these choices had serious deficiencies, and would create problems at other Yamaha teams. As such Yamaha has seemingly taken the safest route, deciding not to rock the boat and tap Yoshikawa for the job.
Lin Jarvis, Managing Director of Yamaha Motor Racing, said “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 & 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,” continued Jarvia. “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.”
“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.”
Wataru Yoshikawa added: “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. 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.”