Just one week before the start of testing, Jonas Folger has announced the shock news that he will not race in the 2018 MotoGP season.

The Monster Yamaha Tech3 rider finished a brilliant runner-up to Marc Marquez at the Sachsenring, midway through his rookie year, but was then sidelined from Motegi with severe fatigue issues, initially thought to be a return of the Epstein Barr virus.

In November, it was stated that Folger had been diagnosed with 'Gilbert Syndrome' and put on a special diet, with the young German pledging:

"It’s a huge relief that we now have a clear understanding of the situation and how to move forward... I will be back and stronger than ever."

That return was assumed to be at the forthcoming Sepang test on January 28-30, but Folger has not recovered sufficiently and taken the drastic decision to skip the entire season.

Given he has been "living with elements of this [illness] since 2011", it would be no exaggeration to say Folger's racing career is in peril.

“I’m incredibly sad to be saying this, but I will not be racing MotoGP in 2018," Folger announced.

"I wasn’t able to make the improvements I was hoping for, and at this stage I don’t feel able to ride a MotoGP machine at 100 percent.

"I’d like to thank everyone involved, but especially the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team, Yamaha Factory Japan, Monster Energy, HJC, IXON, Forma Boots and Rudy Project.

"I hope to be back one day and want to thank you all for your ongoing support.”

Tech3 team manager Herve Poncharal has been left stunned by the news - and needs to find a last-minute replacement to race alongside Johann Zarco.

“Last night [Tuesday] I received a call from Bob Moore, Jonas Folger’s personal manager," Poncharal said.

"I couldn’t believe what Bob was telling me on the phone, that Jonas Folger has decided not to race the 2018 MotoGP season, because he doesn’t feel 100 percent mentally and physically recovered.

“It is still very difficult for me to believe, that he’s not going to race with us in 2018, especially because he has been somebody I had lot of faith in and I was sure we would reach top level together this year.

"I completely respect his decision, although it’s hard to swallow.

"Yet, I will try to find a solution for a replacement rider, which is a very difficult mission, as all of the fast riders are already contracted.

"But as always in racing we need to be proactive, inventive and hopefully we can make someone very happy.

"We will keep all of you informed about the evolution of the situation.”

Tech3 was the top satellite team in 2017, with Folger's team-mate and fellow rookie Zarco claiming three podiums and two poles on his way to sixth in the world championship.

As such, and despite the late timing, there will be no shortage of interested candidates.

Kohta Nozane, Broc Parkes and Michael van der Mark took turns replacing Folger while he was absent at the end of last year (but did not score a point), while Alex Lowes claimed 13th when he stepped in at Tech 3 in 2016.

van der Mark and Lowes are again due to race for Yamaha in WorldSBK this season.

The leading option as far keeping a German rider on the grid would be Stefan Bradl, but he is due to start his new role as a Honda test rider at Sepang.

Sylvain Guintoli is another MotoGP test rider with plenty of premier-class race experience, including at Tech3, but is now heavily involved with Suzuki.

In terms of giving another 'young gun' the chance, the obvious contenders include Tech3's own Moto2 team - and Xavi Vierge would have been the perfect candidate.

But after handing Tech3 it's first Moto2 podium since Bradley Smith in 2011, the highly-rated Spaniard has departed for Dynavolt Intact.

Rookie Bo Bendsneyder will take his place at Tech3, alongside Remy Gardner, who is still finding his feet in the intermediate class.

Folger (24) won three races in Moto2, one race in Moto3 and one race in 125cc before getting his MotoGP chance.

Who do you think should get the Tech 3 seat? Leave your comments below...



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