Rossi's Replacement And The Rookie Rule

Within minutes of Valentino Rossi's terrible crash at Mugello, once it became apparent that the Italian's leg was broken, speculation began on who would replace the Italian. During the first update the assembled press received in a hushed media center at Mugello, one journalist, with blatant disregard for taste and decency (mea maxima culpa), pressed the Fiat Yamaha PR spokesperson on whether the team was working on a replacement. The spokesperson rightly pointed out that as the incident had happened less than an hour previously, it was perhaps a little too early to be thinking about this.

Once the dust Rossi's crash had settled, though, and it became clear that The Doctor will be out for the next three to four months, the debate began in earnest. The list of possible replacements was already surprisingly long by Saturday night, and has only grown since then. Disregarding wishful thinking (Troy Bayliss and Garry McCoy) and the downright impossible (Max Biaggi, Toni Elias and Alex de Angelis, all under contract), the two options most commonly named are moving a rider up from the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team (Ben Spies being most frequently named in this regard) or bringing in one of Yamaha's test riders to take Rossi's place.

Sooner or later, however, all discussions of a replacement for Rossi get bogged down in the same swamp: the muddy wording of the so-called Rookie Rule, which prevents rookies from being signed to factory teams. The exact wording of the rule is as follows:

1.11.11 Riders who enter the Championship for the first time (Rookies) must be entered by a non factory team.

Most interpretations of this rule have focused on a single word, the one between brackets. This is mainly due to Ben Spies, and the broad expectation that Yamaha would want to see how the Texan would go inside of a factory team. As a rookie (having so far only contested 8 MotoGP races), Spies is believed to be ineligible to replace Rossi, as Rossi rides with a factory team, the Texan falling foul of the Rookie Rule.

But the argument is not just true for Spies: If Fiat Yamaha decides to bring in Wataru Yoshikawa, one of their two test riders (Norihiko Fujiwara being the other), he too would fall foul of the Rookie Rule, having only appeared once previously in MotoGP, as a wildcard in 2002. This is also the case for some of the other names being bandied about, such as Sterilgarda Yamaha's World Superbike rider Cal Crutchlow.

With so much room for interpretation and speculation, journalists expended a good deal of shoe leather at Mugello chasing round people in positions of power and asking them for clarification, to clear up this question conclusively. The answers we received were rather dismaying: The people who should know, including the people who helped draw up these rules, could not supply a definitive answer to our questions. The response was unanimous about one thing, though: The rules have been badly phrased, and it is not clear exactly how they should be interpreted.

Despite the confusion, however, there was unanimity on what will happen in practice, based on a much older agreement already in the rulebook. The final sentence of section 1.11.3.iii reads as follows:

Exceptional circumstances will be examined by IRTA and DORNA/FIM.

In effect, this means that the Fiat Yamaha team will be allowed to do more or less as they please, as few would argue that Valentino Rossi missing a race is an exceptional circumstance. But this also extends to other factory teams; should they also lose a rider, they too will be allowed to use their better judgment to find a replacement, and the question of whether a rider is a rookie or not is frankly irrelevant. The current MotoGP bikes are so highly specialized that it is almost impossible to get up to speed on them in the space of a race weekend. So moving up rookies with experience on the bike would at least give the factory teams a fighting chance of getting creditable results.

The point of the Rookie Rule was to help out the satellite teams, by preventing factories from taking promising young riders and slotting them straight into the factory teams. The Rookie Rule forces factories to place their fresh talent into a separate satellite team, giving those privately-run teams a better chance of securing sponsorship.

A case in point is Marco Simoncelli: The Italian is signed to a contract with HRC, but has been seconded to the Gresini Honda team. This placement has allowed Fausto Gresini to secure backing from San Carlo, a major Italian producer of snacks and potato chips, who had demanded that Gresini have two Italian riders, to help San Carlo sell their product in the Italian domestic market.

However, should Andrea Dovizioso or Dani Pedrosa injure themselves badly enough that they are forced to sit out four or five races, Simoncelli could quite easily be drafted in to replace them. The Rookie Rule is there to help satellite teams over the course of a season, not for just a few races.

So with the Rookie Rule not relevant, who will replace Valentino Rossi? Well for the first two races, nobody at all. Jerry Burgess and the rest of Rossi's crew have been told to stay home for the Silverstone and Assen MotoGP rounds, partly as a mark of respect for their injured rider, and partly as a chance for Yamaha to take their time making a more careful decision, saving a little money in the process. Burgess and the crew will back again at Barcelona, by which time there will be a rider taking Rossi's place.

There are several riders whose names have been mentioned who it won't be, and one of those names is Yuki Takahashi. The Japanese rider is currently riding for the Tech 3 team in Moto2, but has previous MotoGP experience aboard the Scot Honda early last year. When asked whether Takahashi was in the frame for the ride, Tech 3 boss Herve Poncharal told, "Yuki has his hands full in Moto2," with Takahashi and teammate Raffaele de Rosa struggling to find some consistency on Tech 3's otherwise highly-rated Moto2 machine.

The other name currently being bandied about by some British websites is that of James Toseland, currently riding for the Sterilgarda Yamaha team in World Superbikes. There are several good reasons to take this rumor seriously, including the fact that the British rider has previous experience aboard Yamaha's M1 MotoGP bike, and is currently under contract to Yamaha directly.

But if Toseland did take over Rossi's seat, it would put the Yorkshireman under a huge amount of pressure. Toseland would face a punishing schedule of six events on consecutive weekends, including two World Superbike double headers. The risk of injury would be raised almost exponentially, and given that Toseland's task will be to win another World Superbike title for Yamaha in 2011, exposing himself to that much risk just does not make sense.

Furthermore, Toseland would be left to switch between two totally different machines with totally different tires from one weekend to the next. Yamaha's YZF-R1 may be based on MotoGP technology, but it is still well-removed from the real thing. The biggest problem would be the tires, though, with the Pirellis used in WSBK providing a completely different feel to the Bridgestone spec tires for MotoGP. Given Toseland's record in MotoGP with the Bridgestones, the Briton is an unlikely candidate to take #46's place.

Yamaha's two test riders remain the current favorites to take the ride, giving the team a chance to start testing for 2011 and give the test riders an opportunity to improve their pace, the adrenalin of a race weekend hopefully helping them to take a second or two off their best lap times. But the truth is that nothing will be certain until early next week, when an announcement is likely to be made officially.

That leaves MotoGP fans - and MotoGP journalists - another four or five days to fill with speculation about who Rossi's replacement is going to be. No doubt they will take full advantage of that opportunity, and throw more and more names into the ring, each less likely than the one before.

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Will Rossi have slightly more powerful engines for his remaining races, since he'll be saving at least two races worth of wear and tear?

That is definitely a consideration. The combination of these rules makes it very complicated to figure out what is the best way to deal with the engines. A replacement rider might also have the revs limited on the engines, to leave Rossi with fresher engine for practice sessions.

Suggestion: Put Spies on Vale's bike. Put Josh Hayes on the Tech 3 bike.

Or if you really want to boost the TV ratings, put Mat Mladin on the Tech 3 bike (really - no kidding - it would work in La La Land).

Problem - what problem?

Clearly the person to put on the bike to boost ratings is Michael Schumacher.

I want to know if Alex Barros is in any sort of riding condition. Saving that, Greg Lavilla? Makota Tamada?

Maybe the test riders would be best.

1. The rules say that a team must replace a rider after missing 2 races, yes? I am confused then. Wouldnt Mugello and Silverstone count as 2, then requiring Yamaha to produce a replacement at Assen?

2. If Yamaha detunes the bike for a replacement rider, doesnt that actually hurt their chances to take the manufacturers title?

This engine rule sure ups the strategy aspect of the season. I am really eager to see how it all washes out in the final few races.

1. Yes. Mugello doesn't count, though, as Rossi started the event. Basically, if you don't turn up with a rider on Thursday, then that counts as a missed event. If your rider crashes on Saturday (or even Sunday morning during the warm up), then that does not count as a missed event.

2. No. Points for the manufacturers title goes to the first bike of each manufacturer to finish. There are very few riders indeed capable of scoring close to what Rossi would score, and one of those who are capable is already on a Yamaha. In the team championship, Fiat Yamaha will suffer. But the team championship is not so important. Neither, for that matter, is the manufacturers title.

1. I believe that entering an event only requires participation in practice.

2. Only the first bike by a manufacturer counts for the manufacturers title. So, unless Yamaha expects their replacement rider to finish ahead of Lorenzo,t hey are best served by de-tuning it.

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

So is Ben Spies a real consideration at this point? If he were to move up to the Fiat spot, a Yamaha test rider would still get the seat time in a real race situation under the Tech 3 team, and therefore get a jump on 2011 testing and improve his lap times a bit.

As for Hayes. I think he wants to win an AMA championship this year. I'm not sure he would want to throw that chance away for a substitute ride in motogp, as it would probably not lead to anything more for him in the series, and he may not have the same fighting chance in AMA next year.

Josh Hayes isn't getting any younger (35). If I had the opportunity to participate in 1 MotoGP race in my lifetime, regardless if it meant risking the AMA title, I'd take it. Even more so if it was on Valentino's bike :)

Thats a good point. But as you said, at 35 he isnt getting any younger. And to my knowledge he hasnt won a Superbike title. The opportunity to say "I rode Rossi's bike in a MotoGP race would be something special, dont get me wrong. But would a true racer rather say that, than "I am the 2010 AMA Superbike champion"?

So if spies were to go to the factory team he would forfeit rookie of the year correct? I dont think he would be willing to do this, seeing he is pretty much set to go to a factory team next year.

Would be cool though if he did.

If Spies went to the factory team, he would still be eligible for the rookie of the year award. You are eligible from the moment you are entered, and are not disqualified halfway through the season, just because you take a substitute ride halfway through. See Mika Kallio last year, riding Casey Stoner's bike.

If Spies somehow winds up on Rossi's bike, who is the crew chief? Houseworth or Burgess?

Is Gibernau considered to be washed up, thus no mention as a replacement?

Mr. Emmett,

I'm curious, but why is Garry McCoy considered "wishful thinking"? He's currently without a ride, in no series, has plenty of experience, would not run afoul of the rookie-rule, so where's the rub?

Great site, and I love the articles! Also, maximum lols at "mea maxima culpa"!!

Seems like a big load to carry when the guy hasnt seen but a handful of the tracks.

If Spies were put on the Fiat bike the expections may be slightly higher, but not that much. For sure he would be on a bit faster machine, but the big disadvantages of minimal track, tire, team, experience is still there. He is still a rookie - though a special one for sure.

Put him on the Fiat machine this year just for fun. Put him on it next year and watch him go!

PSS: I'm still available.

Can any one tell me why Edwards isn't being mentioned as a potential replacement?
He was Rossi's team-mate in the factory team, he knows the M1 better than anyone, could help development and would do good PR. To me he seems the most natural option. Freeing-up the Tech3 seat would also allow Yamaha more options in the second team, even to have different riders at different racers (local riders who know their track best). Spies' performance on the Suzuki at Laguna and Indy were obviously helped by his knowledge of both tracks. I'm sure Poncharal would not mind...

Colin Edwards...  aside from the red tape associated with pulling him out of the Poncharal-owned seat sponsored by Monster, and how to fill that seat with Monster's best interests (where is John Hopkins these days...?), there is this important detail from the (Mugello) weekend:

“The bike was working well, but I can't ride in that condition. I felt fatigued really early in the race and was really struggling to change direction with the bike. I've had a bit of an arm pump issue all weekend for the first time in my career and needed quite a few injections to ease that. I'll try and figure it out and be ready to come out fighting strong in Silverstone.”  (source)

Spies was at the tire test for Suzuki when MotoGP went there the first year. He got a couple of days' extra testing. Though you can argue the point over just how much difference that made.

For arguments sake if Spies moves to Fiat who's engines will he be using? As per the rules a replacement rider is deemed to be the original rider and is restricted to using the engines of the original rider. So Spies becomes Rossi, and someone else becomes Spies for the sake of the engine rule? Ben is not going to ride a detuned machine is he? I doubt Rossi has given up all hope of the title just yet and accordingly will not want his engines thrashed to within an inch of their lives. Strange things have happened with injured riders over the years. Another conundrum and another slap in the face for the GP Commission and their rule tinkering.

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

My understanding is the engines are assigned to the bike and not rider. When Kallio subbed for Stoner he used Stoners engines. If a test rider rode Rossi's bike or Spies he would use Rossi's engines. Thats my understanding but I am sure someone will know more.

That's exactly correct. Whoever takes Rossi's place will use Rossi's engine. If that is Ben Spies (for the sake of argument), then Spies will use Rossi's engines, and whoever takes Spies' place will use Spies' engines.

As an Aussie, I think it very funny (and also very flattering of our talent!) that the 'wishful thinking' list mentioned by David is two Aussies!. Bayliss I can see pretty much automatically disqualified because of his close connections with Ducati, but one has to wonder if McCoy isn't totally outside some serious consideration.

If I were Yamaha, I'd call McCoy, throw him on last year's bike (if it still exists..) and take him to a known performance track and see if he can do the thing reasonable justice. There is no real doubt that he would be a crowd pleaser if he can ride around mid-pack, and the publicity (and exposure) to be milked would be considerable - I'll bet the crowd would be cheering him on like nobody else, just from nostalgia. Plus which, nobody can pass a bike that's as wide as it is long in the corners - and those Yams can be slid, look at Rossi at P.I. last year and some of the shots of Lorenzo getting down to serious work.

It's got to be Spies, imo. If Yamaha don't put him on the bike right away, they are wasting an opportunity to have a look at his work ethic and his potential.

Spies on a FIAT Yamaha at Laguna Seca. John Hopkins on a Tech 3 Yamaha at Laguna Seca. Where do I sign up? Hopefully, Jarvis is saying the same thing. It is very possible especially since John is in the Monster family and Ulrich would probably let him run at Laguna.

If Dorna's loses Rossi, they need to throw the promoters a bone, imo. Get Ben to FIAT asap, and get some local wild cards on Spies' Tech 3 bike for the next few rounds.

It doesn't make any sense to put Spies on the factory bike instead of Edwards. There's nothing in it for both Spies and Yamaha. It would be a premature move and put unnecessary pressure on Spies to perform. Choosing Edwards would be a non compromising choice and a show of respect for a great rider and a great character with a strong affiliation to Yamaha, a good rapport with Rossi and a few seasons of experience on the factory team. If not Colin then it should be a Japanese test rider on Rossi's bike IMHO.

When Kallio subbed for Stoner wasn't he a rookie? if this is the cas Spies could take over Rossi's bike. but will he use his engines or Rossi's?

The Rookie Rule only came into effect for the 2010 season. So even if it did apply to this situation, it wouldn't have applied in 2009.

Why mention Josh Hayes? At 35 there is no point putting im on a GP bike at this stage of his career. Likewise garry McCoy has had his chance and is too old for MotoGP now. Far better to give the opportunity to a young kid on the way up than to a guy on his way out. We might as well give it to Jeremy McWilliams at this rate!

Josh Herrin however would be another matter entirely and is easily worth a try out for the US races surely?

I think Yamaha are missing a trick by not running the bikes at Silverstone & Assen, because despite saving money they had the opportunity to get some local riders massive publicity pretty much regardless of their eventual results, and could also have used the opportunity to 'groom' some new talent too. I'm sure they could have shuffled the riders around to suit the rules (if applicable) as the organiser would be only too pleased to see 17 bikes on the grid instead of the paltry 16 (or less come race day) we'll get to see.

They said the same for the years prior to putting Hayes on the Superbike. Josh is not only a fierce competitor with lots of talent but he is one of the "good guys" similiar to Bayless, with a blue collar background. He's a real success story and might supprise a few of the MotoGP regulars.

Because he is in contention for the AMA title I doubt he would be put on the Tech 3 bike but I for one would love to see him rub handlebars with the worlds elite at Laguna and Indy.

For sure Spies should be put on the FIAT machine. And IMO I don't care about the politics - I would love to see Hayes or Mladin on the Tech 3 bike.

I wouldn't necessarily dismiss Josh Hayes' ability to ride a GP bike at the age of 35. I believe Jamie Hacking was 37 when he subbed for Hopper at Laguna Seca 2 years ago. I think it would be fantastic local PR for both Yamaha and the suddenly stable AMA series. He's paid his dues, give the guy a bone :)

Good call on Josh Herrin but I would throw Ben Bostrom in the mix as well.

The reason I regard McCoy as wishful thinking is because the Australian has been gone from the MotoGP paddock for too long. Also, his style is completely unsuited to 800cc MotoGP machines. No doubt he is still fast, but he would do little better than Yamaha's test riders. Apart from the publicity, of course...

Hopkins has had his wrist completely rebuilt, and is still recovering from surgery. It is unclear whether Hopper will ever race again. He was advised by Dr Ting to retire, but another doctor said he could fix Hopper's wrist, which is what he is currently doing at the moment. He is in no fit state to race right now, however.

I think we should put Kenny Jr on the Fiat Yamaha.

I mean he was world champ over Rossi on a Suzuki...a Suzuki!! Then he would have won a race on the KR Machine if he knew what lap it was...I think Jr would be very fast on the Yamaha. Seriously, I think it would be interesting to see what Kenny Jr could do on a good bike. Sure he is old now, but I think it would be good publicity too.

Plus you are getting a world champion, then the next week, maybe KR Sr.

75% of all factory bikes are ridden by Spaniards and Italians. It's just we jingos from jingoland who are clamoring for another factory rider. We've jingoed our way into 2/3 of all premier GP titles and all but 1 WSBK world title. We're begging for another seat b/c jingoistic marketing doesn't generate profits in our mega-economies like it does in non-jingoistic places like Spain or Italy. ;-o

I'll add Haruchika Aoki to the list. Two time world champ who is younger than Capirossi. Three Japanese factories and one Japanese rider?

The most fitting rider would be the last person to deliver a Grand Prix road racing World Championship title to Yamaha before Valentino Rossi.

Interesting, but the article fails to touch on several key points:

1. With regards to the rookies rules-- Rookies are nominated for the season, wildcards are not. As long as a rider has not been nominated as a rookie he could come in as a wildcard rider as long as he hasn't previously competed in three events in the class.

"A “Rookie” is a rider nominated by a participating team for
participation in the entire season, who has not participated
in nine or more events in the same class in any previous
season." section

2. Engine Durability Rules: A wild card entry gets two additional engines whereas a replacement rider would assume Rossi's current engine allotment. It would make sense for Yamaha to utilize a wild card rider first to get the additional engines then bring in a replacement after the three wildcard races giving the replacement or Rossi as many engines as possible to complete the season.

3. Yamaha's test riders could be used for up to five races or riders like Crutchlow could appear as wildcards. Since they were not "nominated" as rookies, they would fall under they wild card rules

"No wild card entry will be granted to a rider who has ridden in the
event as a wild card on 3 previous occasions in the same class."
"The MSMA (Motorcycle Sport Manufacturers’ Association) may, at
each event, nominate 1 wild card entry for the MotoGP class."

Very interesting post..

I wasn't aware of this "two additional" engine deal for wild cards, how does it work if Crutchlow comes in for Spies at Tech 3?..he's riding his bike and therefore takes over wherever they are in Spies' engine allocation, surely..
In days gone by a "wildcard" supplied his own bike and team, or was on an extra bike in a competing team..and they may be allowed extra engines because the rider isn't competing for a full season..?

I can see logic in the rookie rule being designed to help the satellite squads, but the way it's so ambiguously written is an embarrassment for all concerned..just hold your hands up, admit it was a bad move and scrap it.

According to the rules, Spies would have been nominated as a rookie for the entire season meaning that he cannot take the factory ride at all this season.

Yamaha has two additional engines at its disposal under the wild card rules.

The way I read the rules a rookie is pretty clearly defined:

...has not competed in nine races in one season.
...has been nominated by a team for a particular season.

Those are the two criteria to be classiffied as a rookie.

Test riders (non contracted riders) are pretty open, but the rules specify that a test rider cannot become a contracted rider during the same season unless race direction grants a waiver. Now with dwindling grid sizes it seems that a warm body on the grid would be pretty easily approved, assuming they are qualified but then comes the engine matter. Do you put in a replacement rider for Rossi and let him burn up engines or risk destroying them in crashes, or do you name a rider as a wildcard and get two additional engines? Regardless of wether Rossi returns or not, it would seem prudent to hedge your bets and take advantage of the two extra engines. In the event Rossi returns he has the same amount of engines left available to him as he had before the crash. If the engineers use electronic limiters to increase the longevity of the engines they could potentially remove those to give Rossi an advantage should he return. If Rossi didn't return they would still have aditional engines for whoever his replacement is.

Another point of consideration is Spies. Although the rules specify he cannot have the factory ride, there is no reason he cannot have a factory level bike and access to Rossi's data and mechanics (or even Burgess, although that might cause some problems with House)...

So in theory.. Crutchlow could wild card for 3 races at Tech3, using the 2 extra engines so the bikes allocation remains the same as it was before the wildcard took up the ride..then Yamaha could name Crutchlow as the "replacement" rider and he'd drop back onto the old quota..?
If that's the case, I'm struggling to understand why any team would not go the wildcard route first.

Can you widcard on a factory bike though when in fact you are replacing an injured rider and somebody has had to replace you?

Crutchlow could wild card the three rides but that would be it for his run. After that he would need to be named as a rider and since he doesn't have the 9 races in a season, they would have to nominate him as a rookie.

Very interesting post..

I wasn't aware of this "two additional" engine deal for wild cards, how does it work if Crutchlow comes in for Spies at Tech 3?..he's riding his bike and therefore takes over wherever they are in Spies' engine allocation, surely..
In days gone by a "wildcard" supplied his own bike and team, or was on an extra bike in a competing team..and they may be allowed extra engines because the rider isn't competing for a full season..?

I can see logic in the rookie rule being designed to help the satellite squads, but the way it's so ambiguously written is an embarrassment for all concerned..just hold your hands up, admit it was a bad move and scrap it.

Your post is very interesting, and certainly a really innovative way of looking at the rules. It demonstrates why adding more rules is generally a bad thing, as it creates complexity, confusion and ample opportunities for cheating. Now, to cover your points in order:

1. Rookies are not nominated, they are designated. Teams do not nominate a rider as a rookie, teams sign a rider to a contract, and the FIM (as the arbiter of the rules) decides whether a rider is a rookie or not. There is no way of getting around who is a rookie or not.

The entire confusion, and what I was trying to explain, is that whoever Yamaha brings in to replace Rossi, whether they are a rookie or not is irrelevant. They are not a contracted rider, within the meaning of the rules.

2 and 3. Absolutely correct. The factories are allowed two extra engines for wildcard entries. However, entering a wildcard entry does not discharge Yamaha from its obligation to enter a replacement for Rossi. That is because wildcards are entered by the MSMA members, while contracted riders are entered by teams. So any rider entered as a wildcard by Yamaha - even if they are wearing Fiat Yamaha leathers and riding a Fiat Yamaha bike - will not be regarded as a replacement, but as an additional entry. The Fiat Yamaha team will still be required by IRTA, Dorna and the FIM to enter a replacement for Rossi.

Put another way, any 2nd rider in the Fiat Yamaha team (i.e. alongside Lorenzo) will be regarded as a replacement rider. Only a 3rd rider (alongside Lorenzo and the 2nd rider) will be regarded as a wildcard.

In brief, this means that anyone Yamaha brings in will have to use Rossi's engines. Unless Yamaha bring in a replacement for Rossi AND a 3rd rider, in which case the 3rd rider will get one of the two extra engines that wildcards are allowed. This will not help Rossi in any way with extra engines, though.

The question of who is a replacement and who is a wildcard will be decided by IRTA, the FIM and Dorna. All of those parties have a strong interest in not allowing Yamaha to bend the rules to allow Rossi extra engines at the end of the season.

So, in summary, some very clever thinking indeed. But you'd never get away with it. Yamaha have to bring in a replacement for Rossi from Barcelona, regardless of whether they enter a wildcard or not, and Rossi's replacement will be using Rossi's engines.

Surely only a designated rider can be a replacement on a factory bike, as to wildcard on Rossis bike would mean a team could take advantage of the extra 2 engines?

..are the MSMA not involved in setting rules for this area then? or are they just in charge of the technical side?

It's all a bit baffling..

You can't do a wildcard on Rossi's bike. If you're on Rossi's bike, you're a replacement, and you're using his engines. If you're a wildcard, you are using the wildcard engines. Either way, the words "wildcard" and "Rossi's bike" are completely incompatible.

The next time a bike rolls out of the Fiat Yamaha garage (at Barcelona) it is as a replacement, not as a wildcard. The only way Yamaha can field a wildcard rider at Barcelona is as a third rider, alongside Lorenzo and a replacement rider. Anyone that Yamaha enters alongside Lorenzo will be regarded as a replacement rider, and not as a wildcard.

The MSMA are also involved in setting rules for this area, but they follow, rather than lead. The MSMA has the lead in the technical rules, whereas the FIM, Dorna and IRTA have the lead in the sporting rules.

..thanks for simplifying..

Have you thought about getting a job on the GP commission as well?..seems they could do with a little help.

David, In terms of the Rookies rule that is the exact wording of the FIM MotoGP rules from the English document. Whether you want to use nominated or designated it does not matter, that is a semantics argument. The two key points are that rookies are named in advance of the season and they are named for participation in the full season. If those criteria aren't met the rider isn't a rookie. So a guy like Crutchlow could run on a factory bike as a wild card, because he isn't participating in the whole season, nor was he nominated (designated) as a rookie at the beginning of the series.

As far as having to replace Rossi, section 1.11.3 states:

"Each entry commits the team to designate a rider to compete in all the events of the Championship in the chosen class. Exceptions can only be made as follows:"

"ii) A team may withdraw a rider from additional events in the
Championship only for medical reasons or other reasons of "Force Majeure"."

So really according to the rules they are not required to replace him, but to make a "reasonable effort". The question then becomes what is a wild card ride and what is a replacement rider. In your opinion you say that Fiat Yamaha would need to replace Rossi before fielding a wild card rider. I disagree. Fiat Yamaha could field a wild card rider on Rossi's bike without him being a "replacement" or contracted rider.

The rulebook isn't the only item to consider here. Yamaha and the teams also sign commercial contracts, which commit them to certain actions. As I understand it, the requirement to bring a replacement within three events is part of the commercial contract. The reason that we don't get to see these contracts is because they are kept confidential, as part of the business of racing.

And although I can see your point about running a wildcard instead of a replacement, and can agree that it would not be outside of the rules, I don't think it will happen. After all, it is not what I think or what you think that matters, but how IRTA, the FIM and Dorna decide to interpret the rules that matters. IRTA have the final say on wildcard entries, and they are unlikely to accept one while the Fiat Yamaha team still have an empty spot in the garage. The next few races will see whether Fiat Yamaha elects to follow the course you have set out for them or not.

I certainly understand if there is another contract at work. From a rules standpoint they certainly could put a wild card on there the question then becomes the contractual obligation. Clearly Dorna wants an "ass in the seat" especially in light of the dwindling grid sizes. My guess is that they would accept anyone capable of making the 107% grid time in lieu of an empty seat and one less bike filling the grid.

One other consideration though is the replacement rider rule. If they name a replacement, that replacement is for the season and they cant replace the replacement rider because the rules limit replacement riders to one (confusing). It is very early in the game with respect to Rossi's injury. At this point there is no reason to suspect Rossi can't return before the end of the season. Obviously that has commercial value to Fiat, Yamaha, Dorna etc. When they name a replacement for Rossi, they are pulling the plug on him for the season which further bolsters the argument for wild card riders on his bike or even leaving his seat vacant.

The "replacelement rider" is not a season-long situation.  A replacement rider is needed when the original rider is out for 2 race weekends (or more).  This is not equivalent to season-closure for the original contracted rider, unless the injury necessitates it.  Whoever they have in that seat will be out the day Rossi is ready to return to it.

One need look no further back than Casey Stoner, Mika Kallio, and Aleix Espargaro last year to understand the context.

Assuming Rossi will not return by Laguna, if Yamaha wants a win (both on the track and in the market's minds) in their biggest market, Spies should get the seat.

I believe the rookie rule is irrelevant at this point and I also believe that Rossi has given up any thoughts he might have had at winning the championship.

Spies is Yamaha's development rider. Aside from Rossi, he is the only other rider that can own their biggest market. He is most probably the only possible replacement that has a realistic chance of podium finishes on the factory bike. Without Rossi on the bike, The US fan base will be cheering for Ducati and Hayden. Yes, Colin factors in as well, but not to the same degree.

HRC did massive, enduring damage to their US reputation based on how they treated Hayden the season following his championship. Yamaha staged a coup when they signed Ben from Suzuki and the US market knows it. They have a chance for a massive PR move in their biggest market, not to mention giving Monster a chance for a big boost as well.

Nothing would be better for the US and Yamaha than seeing Hayden and Spies side by side into turn 11 on the last lap - whichever one crosses start/finish first, Yamaha wins.

They will probably see them side by side regardless. What changes by putting Ben on the fiat bike? I don't think the Yamaha A bikes have all the much over the B bikes and Ben himself will tell you that he is still learning how to use the bike and not getting 100% (due to testing limit rules..sigh). He won't have any advantage using Rossi's mechanics for a few races, they are not going to give him the secret sauce. The whole thing would probably just slow him down as he's getting comfortable with his own garage.

I'd put Colin on the fiat (to keep within bounds of the 'rookie rule' ..sigh). He's been there before and unlikely to make a mess of things. Put JT (or anyone really) on the tex3 bike, though Colin might be sad to go back to his bike when someone ran down his motors and/or crashed them up.

The one thing I wouldn't do is leave the seat empty out of 'respect'. Which translates to leaving the seat empty to save money. If they want to save money, then stay home.

This is the result of a bunch of bad rules and imaginative thinking. Any rule with 'saving money' at it's core should be killed on sight. It's like damming a small river to find out a week later that you just flooded your village. Now everyone has to learn to swim for no reason. erm, yeah.

David's comments re McCoy are absolutely valid but in a perverse way I believe that's the whole point - the publicity. Nobody would expect him to be top 10, even on Valentino's bike, but he's one of the few riders around that people genuinely want to see out on track just because he IS who he is. Apart from Rossi himself and Capirex, there's no survivor of the 500's left in motoGP, Yamaha could drag out 'glory days' stuff of even the Rossi/McCoy battles!

As long as he's not disastrously slow - and that's possible of course but there's a lot of McCoy history that says he is unlikely to be ( and he still has to qualify within the 107%[??] rule, so if he is then he'll be a no-show for the race). And the sentiment FOR McCoy has even made it onto McCoy's Wikipedia entry - check it out!

Could be cool. David mentioned that McCoys style is wrong for the 800, and I agree. But there is an easy solution....turn off the TC and let him RIDE it as he likes. Who cares where he finishes, I just want to watch him Riiiiiiiiide it.


then they need to put Mladin on the bike, talk about a wild card. That would raise a huge ruckus and would be the talk of every moto rag/mag around, not that Vale's replacement won't be the talk of every rag/mag around till Rossi is back in the saddle. I'd also like to see it done because I think Mladin could be one of the few wild card riders that actually could be competitve on the bike. <turn flameresistantsuit on>

Mladin is 6' 175lb. He might as well be an NFL lineman in the world of MotoGP. Camier is Shaq :-)

I think Mladins stature makes him an unlikely candidate for any modern 21L GPs. I think it would be interesting to see, though.

The comments above seem to suggest that it's important to use wild cards and to use the extra engines. But also to miss as many races as legally allowed to give Rossi more engines when he gets back. At which point I'm wondering just how many races Fiat-Yamaha can do with no rider. They can go 2 more races now before brining somebody in. But can they then go for another 2 races without a rider?

I'm also thinking that this allows Rossi to test new engines late in the season without worrying about the championship. Effectively giving Yamaha the ability to try new stuff in race conditions ready for 2011.

Would be awesome - Go Gazza! He won GP's for the brand still rides and would be a fantastic choice bring him back for a few races.

There is only one choice, especially if Yamaha wants to capture an unbelievable amount of publicity (both worldwide and in the U.S.)...Kenny Roberts senior.

He may be older but he has still got it when it comes to motorcycles. Re: The Indy Mile last year. He had been off of dirt bikes for much longer than he had been off of road racers and he handled that monster TZ750 as though it was just another Sunday ride.

Yamaha should open their wallet, offer him big (huge $$$$) ) and open their heart to someone who helped them (in the early days) almost as much as Rossi has in recent years.

The overall reaction from the public and the worldwide MC press would be absolutely awesome. I would like to think that he could do it with just a few practice sessions (and probably better than most). I think that Valentino would approve of this also. What a tribute!

They have the time...they have the they have the balls?

Just a little something to think about...

I've long thought how good it would be to have a "Masters series".
An additional series following the GP circus, maybe just in Europe, for over 40 ex riders, on the same type of bikes..lets say V4 500cc two strokes, no flash electronics and a 130kg weight limit..?

You could run it national..teams of three riders for example, a bit like the old Transatlantic races.. USA could include; Schwantz, Lawson and Roberts jnr/snr.. AUS; Doohan, Gardner, Beattie..GBR; Foggy..erm.. MacKenzie, Whitham?..moving on quickly we'd have the Italians with Cadalora, Luchinelli, Reggiani..and the list could go on..

If it happened, I bet you'd struggle to keep the current GP riders from having a go on them too.

McCoy is the man with no fear, we don't need another potato,
only 16 rider, and some not willing to give all.


Maybe Yahama should take a public poll. The rider with the most votes gets the job.

I vote Spies on the FIAT - and Mladin and / or Hayes on the Tech 3 machine until the Doctor returns.

There would be a real problem, THAT series would be more popular than the MotoGP series. Paton and Suter have V4's ready to go. We can only dream though.

A Yamaha test rider will take Rossi's place. Done.

Ben and the CE11 are going nowhere. Their machines are virtually the same as the Fiat ones and I doubt either of them have the desire to move and start using Rossi's engines, nor be separated from their respective crews who they are happy with. The Tech3 boys moving up makes no sense on any front.

Rossi's bikes will remain idle until Fiat are required to put a bum on his seat. They will do so with one of the Yamaha factory test boys using the two engines Rossi has already introduced this year. Those engines will be softened for longevity giving Valentino 4 (updated) engines to play with upon his return. Remembering Yamaha have some horsepower to find.

Somebody mentioned Shinya Nakano. I'd love to see him back for a few rounds. Certainly the most qualified in terms of 'recent' experience. Doubtful though....

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

If all parties involved do what is best for the big show that MotoGP racing is. Ben Spies should be the replacement rider for the #46 Fiat/Yamaha.

If the rule makers do what is best for the racing, then it is in my opinion he will create the most interest. No other rider can come even close as far as publicity for MotoGP racing.

Fiat/Yamaha will get tons of press. The announcers at every event will have plenty to say about the #46 bike. Mr. Spies riding the Yamaha factory bike for the two races in the US would be huge.

He does have a Yamaha contract and Herve is a team player all the way. I personally hope they give the ride to Ben. Be big news in the world of racing. Tech3, Monster, Fiat and Yamaha just to mention the major players would get massive exposure.

Mr. Spies is looking at this year as a learning experience. Hoping to finish inside the top 10 for the 2010 season. Feeling a podium would be like winning the WSBK title. Taking baby steps as he has stated. I really do not see him putting a bunch of pressure on himself to ride any harder on Mr. Rossi's ride.

Ben Spies is easily the best choice.