Confirmed: Roger Lee Hayden In For De Puniet, Espargaro Heading To US

The search for a replacement MotoGP rider, which seemed so difficult for Valentino Rossi and Hiroshi Aoyama, has not been so complicated for Randy de Puniet's replacement, it seems. Last night, we reported on rumors that Roger Lee Hayden was to replace the Frenchman on the LCR Honda at Laguna Seca, and this morning, it appears that the news has been confirmed. The extremely well-connected Italian site is reporting that the the youngest of the three Hayden brothers has been confirmed as De Puniet's replacement for the Red Bull US GP in Monterey.

Hayden was an obvious choice to replace De Puniet at Laguna, as he had several key factors working in his favor. Firstly, he has experience on a MotoGP bike, although that experience is from 2007, when he rode a wildcard Kawasaki at Laguna, finishing 10th on his first time on the bike. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Roger Lee knows Laguna Seca like the back of his hand, having ridden it in the AMA for so many years. This is a crucial factor in selecting the American, as any former 250 or current Moto2 riders drafted in are unlikely ever to have seen the track, as the junior classes have never accompanied MotoGP to California since the series returned there in 2005, for reasons of cost.

Thirdly, the youngest Hayden has a good relationship with American Honda, having raced Supersport bikes for the brand in the AMA. Hayden is also booked in to ride an American Honda-backed Moriwaki Moto2 bike as a wildcard at Indianapolis. With American Honda having formally withdrawn from the AMA since the DMG took over running the series, having an American rider on a Honda at the US rounds of the MotoGP series is extremely important to Honda's US distributor.

It is unlikely - though not impossible - that Hayden will continue to replace De Puniet after Laguna Seca. The Frenchman, who broke both his tibia and fibula, was scheduled to have surgery on Sunday evening, to have a pin inserted in the leg, in an operation very similar to that which fixed Valentino Rossi's fractured leg. De Puniet was slightly more lucky than Rossi, as the Frenchman did not suffer a compound fracture, the bone not breaking the skin and risking infection. De Puniet now has 28 days to recover before the next round of MotoGP at Brno, which could see the Frenchman fit enough to race again.

The other rider injured in the three-bike pile up in the first part of the race at the Sachsenring was Aleix Espargaro. The Pramac Ducati rider was taken to a local hospital, where a CAT scan revealed he had a fractured C7 vertebra, and also looked to be ruled out of the Laguna Seca race. But closer examination revealed that the injury could be an old one, rather than a new fracture, giving hope that the Spaniard may be able to ride after all.

According to the leading Spanish website, Espargaro's medical results have been sent to Dr Angel Villamor, a leading trauma specialist in Spain. Dr Villamor will examine them in Spain, while Espargaro flies to the US with the team. If the fracture is determined to be an old one, then Espargaro will be given the all clear to race at Laguna Seca, and if not, the Spaniard will sit out the race. If Espargaro is ruled out of the US GP, the team have already decided they will not replace the Spaniard.

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Hopefully at Laguna he can show his true potential. The Pedercini Kawasaki is not doing him justice.

RLH is a great rider & by all accounts is another cool and likeable guy (just like another Hayden I can think off!)

I would say if R can get in the top ten, then he can hold his head up high, however, Im going on record now and saying top 8.

Good luck to the guy, hope this gives him a boost for Indy Moto2 ride under #KS34.

I love watching this guy race! Sure he's a little wild but he's also been making a lot of the factory guys look silly all season. I Love to see satelite bikes doing well and Randy is the best of them. He had the privateer contest locked! Hopefully he can return soon and keep challenging for a top spot. Espargaro is another one of my favorites, he did great in all the wildcards he did last year and is having an alright season so far, hopefully his injury is not serious.
Still more Americans on the grid at our home GP! Let's hope the results are something like 1) Hayden, 2) Edwards, 3) Spies, 4) RL Hayden
Nothing against Spies I just really want Colin to do well, the guys a legend

Have to be some carnage for that to happen. Any fill in rider is on a hiding to nothing with the electronic eight hundreds.

A top ten is very possible. Four riders havent been to Laguna before and that will make things easier for him. He is a very adaptable rider and has been on a variety of bikes with power, plus he'll be on a good bike.

This is a completely different ballgame from 2007. RLH will be lucky to be within a second of the regular backmarkers. Hayden is good enough to be in MotoGP, but he won't replicate his 2007 performance, imo.

I'm so bummed I'm going to miss this. I have to travel for work this weekend and can't be at the races. I live in SF just 2 hours away from Laguna, and I have to miss the race for the first time since the late 90's (SBK) The electric bikes, the possibility of an all American podium (very long shot) and now RLH making it 4 yanks! Not to mention having to give up my role as a technical inspector (tire checker)

I'm in central Cal and can't make it. And just read that there will be special livery for both Fiat and Tech3 for the event.

I'm gutted I can't go. They are gonna be just right over there, my boys. Wah.

Roger Lee has now been tapped for two Honda-related MotoGP events in the US - the Premier class for Laguna and Moto2 for Indy.
Is this a sign that there may be more serious discussions in the works between Honda and the youngest Hayden?
As far as I know, his current WSBK contract with Pedercini is only through the 2010 season, correct?

Glad to hear LCR have given him the ride.Sensible choice.I believe Randy will probably be out until San Marino,so yes,quite possible for him to do Brno and Indy.No clashes with SBK.
Roger Lee may be great at Laguna and maybe not.It will all come down to how quickly he gets his setup right with the Bridgestone tyres.
I'm really looking forward to how he does against Simonchelli.
New challenge for both.New bike for Roger,new track for Marco.

Laguna tends to be unforgiving to rookies.. I still remember seeing Jorge flung out of turn 1 in '07. Yikes!

No AMA rider is a rookie at Laguna Seca. This is the "Cathedral" of US racing (Daytona is a NASCAR track so don't even go there). On top of that RLH has already been on a MotoGP bike there.

Your point is taken but there is a lot more potential for a decent result than watching WSBK might have you believe.

--------------------------------------------- - MotoGP Data & Statistics

That was actually turn 5, when he catapulted across the entire width of the track on lap 1. And I believe that was in '08, Jorge's rookie year. I was there in '07...

No need to get high and mighty. Plenty of us have been to Laguna Seca. I mistook the years. In '08, he had a nasty highside out of turn one, going to two. Last year, he highsided in QP (last lap) out of turn four (could have been five, I was in the grandstands and didnt see it though). Almost the same spot that Casey highsided as well.

Regardless. The point still stands that Laguna Seca is unforgiving to rookies. Though, im sure someone will point out an exception. =)

Casey and Jorge highsided at turn 10 last year during QP. only reason I know is because i was walking down from the corkscrew towards turn 10 and saw both of them.
and in 08 it was at turn 5 when Jorge highsided on lap 1 of the race.

I believe Casey highsided in turn 3 last year. The crash that got Jorge was in turn 10, but I believe he crashed before that as well.

But I agree about turn 5 in 2008. I don't know if a GP rider can live through a turn 1 highside. Maybe on the first lap if traffic doesn't get him.

Another rookie mistake... Guintoli getting in the corkscrew too hot and flying into Alex Hoffmann, distroying his hand in the process (while his other hand had just been stuck between a car door or something crazy?).

This won't be popular among my fellow Americans but I think Elias would have been a better pick. He has the weekend off and has tons of MotoGP experience.
My girlfriend and I managed to get our photos on Jorge's custom livery. Hilarious. We get to see it in person too. So excited.

I think you are right on that comment. He was on the bike less than a year ago and knows the tires way better than RLH possibly could. But him being in the lead for Moto2, maybe his team wouldn't let him step in for fear of injury.

Maybe LCR didn't want to run to save money but American Honda convinced them to have a go, with their rider and a bit of cash to defray the costs?

I was at the last 5 Laguna GPs. I can't remember any get offs in turn 1. Turn 2 (andretti hairpin), there have been many.

Speaking of turn two, what is up with John Hopkins? Any news. I haven't seen him in WSBK in a while.

I'm pretty sure Hopkins is back in AMA this year, but I could be mistaken. I think he had a pretty big off in one of the earlier rounds and has been recovering, but I dont really know since I dont really like to watch AMA since the DMG take over.

An AMA crash didn't get Hopper. His right wrist is not working properly after a career of heavy crashes. IIRC, Ting told him to retire, but he didn't want to quit so he went to a different specialist to get his second surgery of the season. He's being extra cautious b/c he's worried his career will be over if he doesn't heal.

You mean Hopkins career is'nt over? He can only milk monster money for so long. I cant believe someone who won the US Aprilia cup series and the 750 superstock title, raced 500's and Motogp's then off to WSB and when $$ got tight ended up back home, only to get injured and his replacement is doing better then he was. NOW WHAT??

Hopkins is a flash in the pan who made it across the pond because someone knew someone. And stayed there for to long cuz someone convinced someone he was $omething. Now he is in a laughing stock of a National series and cant break the top 5. And I'm an American!!

It's a shame that the quality of some postings have degraded to a level on this site. I've been following motomatters since the beginning (remember the motogpmatters era?). Anyways, I just find these personal attacks on riders so distasteful and uninteresting. Why is it, Valerossi, you are full of so much hate?? I just don't get it. David, I'm glad this site is getting more and more popular, but reading comments like the one above make me want to tune out.

Unfortunately, I did not get to this post in time. If I had, I would have seriously considered deleting it, as it does not add much to the conversation. However, there have been several posts in response which convey the ideas of the original poster much more clearly and without so much divisive language. So it will have to stand.

The comments are monitored closely, but I have to sleep (or travel back from events) sometimes, you know. With so many more people commenting, it is a bit more work to monitor.

Anyway, the vast, vast majority of people who post on here make thoughtful and interesting comments. Even the original poster usually makes much better, and better informed comments. So we're doing pretty well, considering the standard of debate in some places.

My apologies for asking about Hopkins. I just got to thinking about him since he would be another guy that could reasonable ride the LCR, and because he crashed at turn 2 along with many others over that last 5 laguna GPs.

I didn't know what he was up to. Last I had heard was that he was all banged up in WSBK last year and then I heard something about him going to AMA but hadn't seen anything since.

Anyway I didn't realize that there were so many haters waiting to pounce. I will do my best to stay on point in the future. And David if you want to delete this whole side thread, it won't offend me.

No need for you to apologize. You did not lower the tone. Others just got carried away, perhaps understandably disappointed by Hopkins' performance after such early promise. But I won't delete this little sub-thread, as there is plenty of sensible and balanced comment in there as well. 

Hopper's career is weird b/c he never made a big impact in GP, but he was never outscored by his teammate in the championship. Not by McCoy or KRJR.

If he can recover from this wrist injury, his career will not be over b/c he's only 27. An AMA SBK title would revive his career and put him in very illustrious company. Don't forget Hopper won the FX title back when it was 1000cc bikes.

BTW, Hopper didn't make it b/c someone knew someone. Ulrich knows everyone in the AMA paddock.

I personally thought Hopper went to the GP class to soon. I think he would have been better had he spent some time in the 250 class.

Hopkins didn't deserve his MotoGP seat? ==> insert facepalm image here <==

I don't much like Hopper but some of the comments here are just uninformed.

Yes, Hopkins lacks the professionalism and discipline a team manager wants to see but he finished 4th in the championship and had 4 podiums riding an underpowered Suzuki in 2007.

He's trashed his body trying to wring speed out of crap bikes, his biggest career mistake was staying loyal to Suzuki for way too long

I'd still love to see what Hopper can do on a Yamaha. He's a bigger rider and Yamaha seems to prefer bigger riders. Rossi, Lorenzo, Spies, and Edwards are all 5'8"+. Hopper would fit in nicely, imo. Too bad it will probably never happen.

Anyway, not to steal RLH's thunder. I hope he goes well.

I never said he didn't deserve to be there but I fell he could have been better with more development in the 250 class. I just think the if you want to race the top class you need to be in Europe and come up through the ranks. There are many good American riders out there that today I don't think with the way the bikes and tracks are today that the AMA series is a good jumping off point. If guys like RLH and other riders want to ride in GP full time and be competitive then they need to start out in the 125 or the new moto2 class. Gone are the days when the dirt track scene produced riders who could dominate in GP. And the AMA series does not want the star riders to leave.

Spies is the best chance I think we will see another American rider win the championship but even then I am not sure he will pull it off with the current crop of riders in GP.

Hopper on Suzuki did seem like a pretty decent combination to me. The bike right now is probably even less competitive, but Hopper got away with it better than the current duo.

I couldnt remember what had happened to Hopper, thanks for correcting me. I must say, I was never a big fan of his so I couldnt really care less about where he is now. I hope he does recover and do well in AMA, but he was in MotoGP WAY TOO LONG. I dont think he deserves to be back in a world championship at all, unless he really turns things around these next couple of years and is able to win a couple of championships, then I wouldnt mind seeing him back in WSBK, but not MotoGP

Happy to see RLH get this chance. He is a top tier rider IMO, he just needs a better team/bike =P. Hopefully the race at Laguna Seca and Indianapolis will lend a hand in obtaining that.

Rats, Elias was 7th in last year's championship on Bridegestones while riding a satellite bike. I think the main reason he is out of MotoGP is because Gresini had a much better commitment form the Italian sponsor San Carlo with the Marco pair that with one Marco (probably SIC who is under HRC contract) and Elias.

The other reason is he was unwilling to take a big pay-cut just to stay in at all costs back with Pramac.

Simon's positive experience jumping down a class to win the championship was the decider for him. Don't be surprised if he is back with Gresini pairing with SIC next year.

I think that Hopkins time at Suzuki showed that he was certainly a fast and competent rider. He wasn't sacked by Suzuki, he left to try and get onto a more competitive bike! Unfortunately, Kawasaki took a turn for the worst and he was further plagued by injuries trying to wring the best out of uncompetitive machinery! It's very easy to be critical from the armchair, very difficult to give 100% commitment and confidence to a bike that isn't all there!

Hopkins scored some great results for Suzuki, Capirossi would be pleased to emulate them!

I dont really know if he left for a "more competitive bike." he left after the 07 season, when he finished 4th in the championship, whereas the highest finishing Kawasaki in 07 was, coincidentally, RdP way back in 11th place.
what i had always heard was he went where there was more money to be made. going to kawasaki, supposedly, allowed him to keep more of the sponsorship money he got from Monster. this is just what i remember hearing, dont know if it is really true or not.