Yamaha has announced that its 41-year-old test rider Wataru Yoshikawa will take Valentino Rossi's place in the Fiat Yamaha team, from Catalunya on July 4 until the injured Italian returns.
Reigning seven time champion Rossi broke his right leg in a practice accident at Mugello and Yoshikawa is expected to ride alongside 2010 title leader Jorge Lorenzo 'for at least three races'.
Yamaha struggled to find a suitable rider to take Rossi's place and - with the temporary promotion of Tech 3's Colin Edwards or Ben Spies, or double-duty by Yamaha's factory WSBK riders James Toseland or Cal Crutchlow only producing further logistical problems - the decision was made to go with Yoshikawa.
"We have considered many different scenarios and candidate riders to fill the temporary vacant seat in the Fiat Yamaha Team,” confirmed Lin Jarvis, managing director of Yamaha Motor Racing Srl.
“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 d evelopment of the YMR-M1.
"We look forward to welcoming Wataru into our team while we wait for Valentino's return to full fitness."
Yoshikawa won the Japanese Superbike Championship for Yamaha in 1994 and 1999. Between 1992 and 2002 he made wild-card appearances in the World Superbike Championship for Yamaha and in 1996 completed a full season, finishing ninth.