Fortuna Yamaha has today confirmed that Norick Abe will ride as a replacement for the injured Marco Melandri in the Africa's Grand Prix, at Welkom, on Sunday 27th April.

Abe, a former GP regular who finished sixth in the 2002 Championship, had been due to compete in the season-opening Japanese Grand Prix as a wildcard. With Melandri ruled out of the race he was drafted in to the Fortuna Yamaha Team and rode to 11th place last Sunday.

Abe and team regular Carlos Checa stayed at Suzuka for a pre-arranged Yamaha test, where Abe had the opportunity to ride the latest 2003 race-spec YZR-M1. However, heavy rain meant that scheduled track time for the pair was significantly reduced.

27-year-old Abe will ride the latest spec M1 at Welkom, rather than the prototype he has been testing all pre-season, and rode in last Sunday's Grand Prix.

Melandri, the team's 20-year-old MotoGP rookie, suffered multiple leg injuries when he fell during Friday's opening practice session of the 2003 MotoGP World Championship.

He flew to Italy on Monday and has received some treatment from the Championship's Clinica Mobile medical staff in Imola. He has a cast on his ankle where he suffered a double fracture, but this is due to be removed after next weekend so that physiotherapy can begin.

The haematoma around the crack in his femur has significantly reduced and the bone should heal without complications. On the whole medical staff are quite happy with Melandri's progress. However, it is still too early to say exactly when the 2002 250cc World Champion will return to competitive action, but he is thought to be aiming for round three, at Jerez, on May 11.