Yamaha Test Rider To Take Rossi's Seat From Barcelona

The news that MotoGP fans have been waiting for for so long has finally been made public: Today, the Fiat Yamaha Team issued a press release announcing the replacement for Valentino Rossi. Contrary to the hopes and expectations of the fans, it is not going to be someone from the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team, nor a rider from Yamaha's World Superbike team. Instead, Yamaha - like Honda with Hiroshi Aoyama - have elected to put a test rider on the bike, and fill the vacancy with Wataru Yoshikawa until the start of the summer break.

The choice of Yoshikawa underlines the difficulties which MotoGP teams face in finding replacement riders. With testing severely limited, the Bridgestone spec tires requiring experience to get the best from them, and a limited number of engines to last the season, the risks of putting an untested rider on the bike have started to outweigh the benefits of any experience gained. 

Below is the text of the official Fiat Yamaha press release:


Yamaha Motor Racing is pleased to announce that Wataru Yoshikawa, their experienced Japanese test rider, will join the Fiat Yamaha Team from the Barcelona round of the MotoGP World Championship. The two-time Japanese Superbike Champion will ride in the place of the injured Valentino Rossi, with Rossi's team and the YZR-M1, until the Italian is back to full fitness following his broken leg.

It is expected that Yoshikawa will be with the Fiat Yamaha Team for at least three races, after which more should be known about Rossi's expected return date.

Lin Jarvis, Managing Director of Yamaha Motor Racing Srl, 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. 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.

"We look forward to welcoming Wataru into our team while we wait for Valentino's return to full fitness."

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."


Nationality: Japanese
Born: 26th September 1968, Tokyo

Wataru Yoshikawa won the Japanese Superbike Championship for Yamaha in 1994 and 1999. Between 1992 and 2002 he made many wild-card appearances in the World Superbike Championship for Yamaha and in 1996 completed a full season, finishing 9th. He raced as a wild card once in MotoGP in 2002, finishing 12th. Since then he has been heavily involved as a test rider for the Yamaha MotoGP programme, giving him an in-depth knowledge of the YZR-M1.

Wataru Yoshikawa, Yamaha's MotoGP test rider, to substitute for Valentino Rossi

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Holy crap, I'm younger than he is!

I certainly understand their rationale, but I just can't imagine that McCoy (working with Burgess) would have been that much worse.

I guess there must have been a lot of debate between Fiat and Yamaha about whether the 41 year-old test rider will represent the sponsor as well as the 37 year-old former GP winner...  but maybe that is tied up in next year's contract negotiations, too.

Oh, well...  good luck to all involved.

So now in the premier class we get to watch not one but two test riders with one being on arguably the best bike in the field? I'm sure we will never hear the truth on why Yamaha chose a 42 year old test rider but big time disappointment for me. Yamaha missed a golden opportunity to put some "young" talent out there and see what could happen. All this wildcard talk and engine rule and bla, bla, bla is ruining the class. I wish every rider except those is the chase for the championship would run the hell outta all of their engines and let the field dwindle down to 3 riders and then maybe Dorna would get wise to how much this hurts the sport because I feel the engine rule played a part in this terrible decision. Please hurry back Vale....everyone, especially Dorna need you back.

Bummer - MotoGP missed a great opportunity to spice up the package.

Safe and reasonable decisions don't fit well in motorcycle racing.

at 42 years old it should be interesting. I'm sure they'll get plenty of feedback from him with these on track tests with new parts and such.

Though their hand was somewhat forced. No time for anyone from WSuper's. Can't take a Tech3 rider without hurting their sponsorship capabilities. Might as well strengthen your in-house workshop and get your test riders some real GP experience.

My question is...
How much slimmer will the grid get before we see Kallio on the podium?

I don't get it! This HAS to be politics! This isn't NASCAR, but these rules that DORNA has in place makes it look more & more like it! Visor you make a GREAT point---if the big boys lose a bunch of motors, we might have 3 'satellite' bikes on the grid and everyone in pit row! Vale . . . the WORLD OF RACING needs you back! Heal up . . . racing ain't the same w/out YOU!

and available, or who is this bright young talent that should have got the ride?

McCoy? Please. A bucking bronco 500 is a far cry from a 800 scalpel.

Yoshikawa has podium'ed a couple of times in WSBK. He is the right choice.

Anyone remember Aprilia's relic of a test rider from the mid nineties, Marcellino Lucchi? He did rather well for a test rider in his forties on the 250 GP bike.

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

I'm guessing Yamaha thought ummmm say Edwards and Crutchlow since apparently both of them turned down the ride from what Nicky said in his interview. Thats sound's like Yosh was a bit of an afterthought. Wouldn't you say?

Yeah, it's going to be disappointing to those who are watching from the stands and on television. You're not going to get some young turk who's going to come on screaming, possibly bin the bike, possibly even take out his teammate in the process.

Right now, Yamaha, contractually, HAS to fill that second seat. Period. I'm sure they'd be happy to let Lorenzo run solo, but it's not their choice. So, they're filling the seat with someone who:

1. Has lots of experience with the bike. More seat time than Lorenzo and Rossi together.
2. Is old enough to know exactly what he can and cannot accomplish. Remember, he's racing for Fiat/Yamaha, not the punters who want to see an exciting (possible) crashfest.
3. He'll be able to give the team mechanics a lot of good information under full battle conditions. That's what he's paid to do in the first place, only now he's doing it in the real world, not test tracks.
4. Is competent enough that I bet he'll finish in the points every race, and probably finish ahead of the Suzuki's.
5. Finally, they don't have to hire him. They have, years ago. Which means he's already being paid. Bet he's running these races for the same paycheck he'd get if he'd stayed in Japan on the test tracks.

When you've got the kind of money and prestige on the line like Yamaha has with this team, you make your decisions based on what's best for the team, not what'll most please a load of 20-something squids watching the races. This is very expensive racing, not a motorcycle based videogame. Decisions have to be made accordingly.

Sure, it's wise/useful/financially valid to use a test rider unknown to the public. But I think it IS important to have racing celebrities riding around these bikes. Just as you say, this is expensive racing and you need to entertain the audience or it all becomes academic. I know it was hard to find a replacement rider, but I still feel it was no priority for Yamaha to give the fans what they want. They'd even rather keep the bike in the paddock? Is that an offence to every MotoGP fan in the world or what? Are they out of their arrogant minds? Talk about prestige on the line!
Rossi out is bad enough. Yamaha need to get their feet back on the ground and remember who they are racing for. This is an opportunity wasted.

Lo, somehow I've got the feeling that you're a lot younger than me (I'm 60). You want the SHOW, and if the team hurts itself in the process, so what, you want the SHOW.

Whoever (is actually available) takes on that bike as a walk-on isn't going to finish in the top ten. Period. The competition is too high. Better to have a rear half finisher who can actually do something constructive to the team's season (repeat: season) effort than a wildly entertaining manic who possibly bins a few bikes and puts on a momentary show for two races.

If you haven't noticed, everyone's attention is going to be on Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Dovizioso, Stoner, Hayden, Edwards, Spies and DePuniet anyway - and I just named eight out of the top ten.

I thought you'd be way older ;) I am younger than you are, but I saw my first GP in 1984 so I've been around for some time.
It is interesting you are telling me what I want or don't care about. All I said is I think it was no priority to Yamaha to field a class act racer, especially since they said they'd rather not race at all with the bike if it wasn't for the rules. That seems unacceptable to me.

yeah fair enough to go with yoshikawa i guess, although i think soup expressed it best in their poll

"If this quandary can be solved with a 41 year old rider, then there is but one choice: Troy. Bayliss."

the word is "available". From what I understand, he isn't. By personal (or wifey-influenced?) choice.

Setrocks got it right- boring!

The current regs have royally screwed up MotoGP, all those knee-jerk reactions to the GFC which have all cost rather than saved money, and have grossly detracted from the spectacle in the process, and all being rolled back as fast as possible now they've proven to be dumb.

Expect poor old Yoshi to be trundling around with the oldest engine cranked way down. Good luck to him, but what a waste.

There will be one more bike on the grid, but not in the race.