Matteo Baiocco will step in for the injured Fabio Menghi for VFT Racing this weekend at the second round in Thailand.
Menghi suffered a fractured pelvis in a heavy crash during the final pre-season test at Phillip Island, ruling him out of the 2016 season opener at the same venue, which means Baiocco will make an unexpected return to World Superbikes after splitting from Althea Racing last year.
Baiocco, who enjoyed his first full WSBK campaign since 2010 last year, ended the season ninth in the final standings on Ducati machinery and team owner Valerio Menghi sees the Italian as the ideal replacement.
“I am sorry for the situation because Fabio has been injured and has had a huge operation in order to try and rectify the fracture of the pelvis,” Menghi said. “However, we immediately thought of a possible substitute for Fabio and the choice was unanimously Matteo Baiocco.
“Besides the fact that he deserves to run in World Superbike, Baiocco is really fast and he is the right man to be put into the VFT Racing family. We will do the best we can to give him the best motorbike, so that he will be able to show his capabilities straight away. Unfortunately, we don't yet know the full prognosis of Fabio's operation.”
Menghi says he is targeting a return at round five at Imola and Baiocco will cover in Thailand but has not yet been confirmed for rounds three and four at Aragon and Assen respectively.
Despite the unfortunate circumstances, Baiocco says he is delighted to make an unexpected World Superbike return at a track where he enjoyed one of his most successful rounds last year, taking an ninth in race one followed by sixth in race two.
“Coming back into World Superbike is outstanding, but I am sorry that I am doing this because of Fabio's accident - he is an amazing rider and an amazing man,” Baiocco said. “The team has decided to give me this chance and I will try to do my best for as long as it will be necessary.
“Last year I did a good job in Thailand, but now I will race after a break of many months and I have to rebuilt my confidence, even though I must admit that I have been training as if I am going to be taking part in the entire World Championship season. I cannot wait to start.”