By Lisa Crouch
Reigning AMA Superbike Champion Josh Hayes is reported to be taking the place of fellow American Colin Edwards at Monster Yamaha Tech 3 in next weekend's Valencia MotoGP season finale.
Edwards will be unfit to make what would have been his final Tech 3 appearance due to injuries sustained during the accident that claimed the life of Marco Simoncelli at Sepang last weekend.
Hayes is the logical choice to take over the ride, having been due to test Edwards' bike - as a rewarded for winning his second AMA Superbike crown - in the post race test. The 36-year-old will be making his grand prix debut.
Hayes is unlikely to be the only Yamaha stand-in at Valencia, with factory star Jorge Lorenzo still recovering from hand surgery and Ben Spies forced to withdraw from Sepang due to the effects of his Phillip Island fall.
Test rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga had been drafted in for Lorenzo at the Malaysian round, but was left firmly at the tail of the timesheets and the factory now seems to be seeking a more competitive substitute.
According to Italian website GPone.com, Yamaha Racing managing director Lin Jarvis is "looking for riders of a certain level - we want something other than a regular test rider."
But while the World Superbike season has finished, Yamaha's decision to disband its factory WSBK team means that it has no riders under contract from that class for 2012.
Yamaha's only 2011 world champion was Chaz Davies in WSS - although he will switch to Ducati machinery in WSBK for next season - while Yamaha's BSB champion Tommy Hill remains unsigned.
Gresini Honda is yet to confirm if they will be race in either MotoGP or Moto2 at Valencia, but will be in attendance with their pit box set-up in Marco's memory.