Shortly after crashing out of Sunday's season ending Valencia Grand Prix, Camel Pramac Pons rider Tohru Ukawa confirmed he won't be riding in the premier-class next season and will, reluctantly, become a HRC test rider instead.

Ukawa started ninth, but was taken out by countryman Shinya Nakano within the first few laps, bringing a premature end to his GP career. Nakano later apologised for the collision.

"This is such a stupid way to go out," sighed Tohru, who made his GP debut in 1994 as a wild-card in the 250cc class. "Nakano hit me from behind, but none of it really matters because I am retiring now.

"I'll be an HRC test rider, but I still want to race and think it is too soon to retire from competition so we will see what happens," added the 30-year-old.

"I would like to take this opportunity to wish Tohru well for the future. He is a very special person and I want to thank him for all the dedication he has shown to the team," said Sito Pons.

Ukawa took four 250cc wins and one MotoGP victory - with Repsol Honda at the 2002 Africa's Grand Prix (bottom pic) - during eight years as a full time GP rider. However, his best finish this season was a fourth place at Jerez, leaving the #11 eighth in the final championship standings.

Makoto Tamada is highly tipped to replace Ukawa in the Pons team next year, alongside Max Biaggi, due to his Pramac and Honda links.

However, the question remains as to whether both Tamada and Biaggi will use Bridgestone tyres in 2004.


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