Fortuna Yamaha has announced that Norick Abe will replace Marco Melandri at the season-closing Valencia Grand Prix, on Sunday November 2.

As reported earlier by, Melandri requires an operation to help his dislocated right shoulder heal following his Phillip island fall. This will now take place next Monday in Forli, Italy, ruling the reigning 250cc world champion out of the season finale - but giving him time to regain full fitness for 2004 testing.

"I'm feeling quite okay, I have a little bit of pain in my shoulder but not all the time," said Melandri today. "Since I got back from Australia I have had an extensive check-up with Doctor Costa and a shoulder specialist who operated on my left shoulder two years ago. The check-up revealed that everything around my shoulder is broken, and that only an operation will repair it for good. I had exactly the same operation on my left shoulder and that is absolutely fine now, so I know that it will heal without a problem.

"To ride a MotoGP bike you must be 100 per cent fit. The four-strokes are so heavy to control and your shoulders carry a lot of that weight. If I tried to ride in Valencia it would be very painful and I wouldn't get a good result," he explained. "I'm going ahead with the operation now because it will give me time to recover and to be in perfect health for the start of 2004. After the operation I will need one month of rest, one month of physiotherapy, and one month of training. I'm sorry to miss Valencia but this way I will be ready to ride again in January."

Thus, Abe will be competing in Fortuna colours for the third time this year, having already stepped in to replace Melandri at the season-opening Suzuka and Welkom races in April after Marco broke his leg.

The twenty-eight-year-old Japanese is a former GP regular who finished sixth in the 2002 Championship, before accepting the job of Yamaha test rider after losing his seat at D'Antin Yamaha to Shinya Nakano.

Abe is currently chasing a full time MotoGP return, with both Yamaha and Ducati on his list.



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