When it was put to the reigning MotoGP world champion that the injured Tito Rabat was being replaced by 22-year old Christophe Ponsson in the Reale Avintia Ducati squad, Marc Marquez simply replied, ‘Who?’

Ponsson, a former World Superbike rider who currently plies his trade in the Spanish Superbike championship, will have his first experience on a MotoGP machine at Misano on Friday morning, something that doesn’t sit easily with a number of the class’ leading names.

Aleix Espargaro was one those, believing the Frenchman’s necessary adaption to Michelin tyres, carbon brakes and added horsepower in just four free practice sessions, a 15-minute qualifying shootout and Sunday's morning warm-up will be too much to be competitive.

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“For sure I say many times in the past: MotoGP is a super difficult class,” said the Aprilia rider. “For me we cannot give a MotoGP bike to whoever because we are together it's just corner one [before he loses touch]. For him it will be super difficult to be competitive in just three sessions.

“But it's enough to create a disaster with carbon brakes, with almost 300 horsepower, also maybe a new track for him. It would be better to have a special licence, sincerely.”

When Marquez and Valentino Rossi were asked about Ponsson’s credentials in the official press conference, the Repsol Honda man said, “Who?

“I didn't know there was another rider in the place of Tito. I don't know him, but we already said in the past, to be in a MotoGP race, you need to have a minimum level or minimum career.

“To arrive in MotoGP because of money is not the way. We are in the best championship of the world. I know that some riders need to arrive like this, but yeah, it's not safe, sure. But we will see.”

Rossi added, “I also don't know him. So riding a MotoGP bike for the first time on a race weekend is for me not a great idea. Because the brakes, but also the tyres… Maybe it's not very safe. We need to keep attention. But I don't know him, maybe he's good and fast. We have to see.”

LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow offered a different perspective, however. “I’m always in two minds, because I think it’s great to give people opportunities in life, in sport, in this paddock,” said the Englishman, before positing: “So why not have a new guy ride the bike?

“But as we know if you’ve not even raced for a year, or so, you can make mistakes. I don’t know the guy, I’ve never met the guy, I hope he has a fantastic weekend. I’m sure this guy has enough talent to ride a motorcycle at a good level.”

Full-time rider Xavier Simeon will now ride a Ducati GP17 in Rabat’s absence, while Ponsson will take over the Belgian’s GP16 for this weekend.

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