Aoyama Out For 2-3 Months, Test Rider To Sub Next Two Rounds

Hiroshi Aoyama's horrible highside at Silverstone saw just 15 MotoGP riders take to the grid last Sunday for the race. And now that Aoyama has been examined more thoroughly, and the Interwetten Honda rider ruled out for at least two months with a fractured T12 vertebra, the prospect of just 15 riders on the grid for Assen, and 16 at Barcelona (by which time, the Fiat Yamaha team will have to replace the injured Valentino Rossi) was too much for the organizers, and measures have been taken to avert the declining numbers. From this weekend, Honda test rider Kousuke Akiyoshi has been drafted in to take Aoyama's place aboard the Interwetten Honda RC212V. Akiyoshi will also ride at Barcelona, filling the MotoGP team's immediate needs.

With those two races taken care of, that gives team manager Daniel Epp more time to find a more permanent solution to Aoyama's absence. In a press release today, issued to announce Akiyoshi replacing Aoyama, Epp spoke of the need for a "more stable" solution, but Epp faces a similar problem to that faced by the Fiat Yamaha team. With engines limited and money tight, there is a distinct lack of suitable candidates to replace anyone who injures themselves. Moving a rider up from Moto2 would seem the logical thing to do, but that merely shifts the problem elsewhere. In addition, a rookie - in the Interwetten team's case, Moto2 rider Thomas Luthi - would be more likely to crash the bike and accidentally damage an engine, leaving the team with a bigger problem at the end of the season. The extreme nature of the MotoGP bikes makes it almost impossible to be fast on the bikes without the benefit of extensive testing, as the results of this year's crop of former 250 riders has demonstrated.

Test riders, therefore, look more and more like the most sensible solution. As test riders, there would be few expectations on them to get results, and they would have little pressure on them to perform. They can gain very useful data which can help while developing the bikes, and perhaps most importantly, they can be relied upon to not have the red mist of battle descend upon them, and bring the bike home in one piece. The announcement that Akiyoshi will be replacing Aoyama is likely to presage a similar announcement from Fiat Yamaha, that one of their two test riders, Norihiko Fujiwara and Wataru Yoshikawa, will be filling in for Valentino Rossi until the Italian returns.

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Very sorry to hear the extensive nature of his injuries confirmed. Best wishes for a full and speedy recovery for a worthy wold champion.

I agree that the test-rider substitution seems to be the logical (and logistically feasible) choice, both for Fiat and Interwetten. Although some will doubtlessly view this solution as diluting the quality of the racing, in reality, I believe that there are few (if any) riders capable of stepping into either vacancy and immediately racing at the level of the injured riders.

I'm increasingly concerned by the prevalence of the cold-tire high sides this year. It could be an observational bias, given that Rossi was one of the rider's to be injured in this way, but it seems that this year I've seen so many riders go over the high side after just letting off a bit. Are there any data on the frequency of these incidents? And, if, as I suspect, the frequency is up, what might be the cause of this trend--presumably an unfortunate side effect of advances in other aspects of tire performance?

Godspeed, Hiro.

I think it's time to bring back testing.

None of the new guys since the testing ban have shown anything special (except Spies) despite being champions or champion contenders before.

Lack of testing might mean the end of new star drivers in MotoGP class I fear.

... a "slow" Toni Elias - who would be instructed to take it easy on the equipment and bring it back in one piece - would be faster than a test rider.

I realize it may be untenable, contractually, but at least as a Honda rider last year, a Honda rider this year, and having a Honda lessee as a team owner, perhaps it is not nearly as tangled a web as it would be having a Moto2 rider sub for Rossi. 

In having Elias on that bike, Gresini would, in effect, have 3 riders featured, and there is no doubt team orders could be issued to make sure everyone is "protected". 

InterWetten would get a better return on their investment than with a test rider, and Elias would have a chance to re-audition for his next gig.

If he wasn't doing so well in Moto2, he wouldn't be worthy of consideration for a substitute ride in MotoGP. Conversely, he is doing so well (leading the championship!) that it would be ludicrous to consider pulling him out of Moto2. Besides, I think there is a strong preference to have a Japanese rider on the InterWetten bike.

Sponsor satisfaction issues aside, it seems counter-productive to install a rider that has no vested interest in actually racing for a result just to fill the grid.

Although your point is extremely valid, there is something else to consider. The sponsor satisfaction issues go beyond just team sponsors (in this case, Interwetten and Fiat). There are also series and event sponsors: Tissot, Aperol, BMW, BWin, Monster, TIM, Red Bull, Air Asia, ENI, Cardion, Iveco, Generali, the Spanish tourist board. I spoke to the representative of one sponsor, and they were pretty upset at there only being 15 bikes on the grid in the UK. These people have their own deals and have been made promises too.

Hope Hiro makes a full and speedy recovery. Had the opportunity to meet him at Motegi and spoke with him for about 5 minutes. Very nice and very humble (typical Japanese) but completely sincere.

Get well soon Hiro-san

So Interwetten can't just park the bike for two races as a "tribute" to their fallen rider? They must throw someone on the bike to fill the grid? Isn't that a double standard?

Does he who must not be named gets special treatment again. Kind of like how he passed that rookie on a satellite Honda during the yellow flag back in 2006 without punishment.

Interesting, perhaps the rules in the book only apply to select people, it seems?
But I would imagine Dorna gave Honda some kind of incentive to bring someone in immediately, otherwise I would figure it would be completely in Honda's right not to field another rider for 2 races. (Keep in mind that the rule is an option, maybe Honda didn't want to wait that long?)

I think there should be a new written rule that if a factory rider is injured the satellite riders for the respective manufacture should be moved up automatically.

Additionally, allow the satellite team to use the factory’s test rider AND his test machine in the race. This would at least give the fans a reason to actually pay some attention to the replacement rider AND bike.

A few of the incentives resulting from this would be…

1. Actually HAVE a satellite team (are you listing Suzuki)
2. Prepare the satellite team sponsors for the possibility of losing their "star" rider (are you listing Tech 3)
3. Would eliminate all this agonizing over where the replacement rider is going to come from
4. Give the fans a bonified reason to watch the satellite test rider and bike to see how they perform

Seems to me to be far too many high sides and low sides this year. Bridgestone really seem to have screwed up the tyres this year. The tyres seem far too sensitive to temperature changes, and to say that Rossi crashed because he slowed down for a few seconds, and the tyres lost 7 derees in temperature, thus causing the highside.

Abought time they bought MICHELIN back into the fray.

And they banned infrared tire sensors because they were to expensive? Even JB said they were not that expensive. But at this rate of riders trying to go into low orbit we might have a field of just 10 riders by the last race. So I ask how important was it to ban the tire sensors?

the other factor for eliminating the onboard tire temp sensors (according to JB) was that they were not very reliable/accurate relative to the 'tactile' gauges (which are physically pressed into the tire). Nevertheless, one would imagine that this IR sensor technology--like all others--would have improved over time had it been retained.

So far we have temporarily lost two riders from a small grid, but this is only a small fraction of the riders who have been caught out by the cold tire high side.

FWIW, I'm assuming that this apparent 'rapid cool down' phenomenon that seems to be more prevalent this year is the 'downside/negative tradeoff' of some other improvement in tire performance, perhaps shorter warm-up times? I'm actually impressed by the apparent pace of development by Bridgestone in the absence of any direct competition.

While my heart breaks for those that are out for the coming races, I can't help but be disappointed to hear that test riders are going to be used to fill their respective voids.

Marketers and fans alike do not want to spend money watching guys that are going to run 1 to 2 seconds off of the pace.

Motogp needs to revisit their rookie rule to account for serious injuries.

Highsides happen and are not generally the fault of the tyre but the rider. Rossi gave it too much gas, too leant over and off line. Simple. The best tyre temp gauge is the one stuck inside a riders leathers - his arse!

These guys should know all the prevailing factors before they go out. Track temp, ambient temp etc. Accordingly they should know how long a tyre will take to get up to operating temp. The collary to this of course is riders have reduced track time / limited engines, and accordingly there is the desire / need to make every lap count.

And so the grid falls lower. How are these new cost cutting measures working out Gp commision guys?

Motorcycles fall over if you don't go fast. Fred Gassit AMCN

"These guys should know all the prevailing factors before they go out. Track temp, ambient temp etc. Accordingly they should know how long a tyre will take to get up to operating temp. "

Agreed. Though not so easy when you are unable to do much testing.. silly rules compounding here.

Was pretty handy on a Honda last year. He only has 5 points (a 75 point hole) in Moto2. He would be a great man to put back on the grid if contracts allowed it.

Shinya Nakano has ridden Bridgestone tires and Honda RC212V. Honda should ring him up and give him a second chance to take a career as a Honda test rider.