Fiat Yamaha has announced that Wataru Yoshikawa, their experienced Japanese test rider, will take Valentino Rossi’s seat from the Barcelona round of the MotoGP World Championship.
The two-time Japanese Superbike Champion will ride in the place of the injured Valentino Rossi, with Rossi’s team and the YZR-M1, until the Italian is back to full fitness following his broken leg. This surprising announcement comes after rumors that Ben Spies and maybe Colin Edwards turned down the opportunity.
Yoshikawa, this current low-profile motorcycle racer is expected to compete with the Fiat Yamaha Team for at least three races, after which more should be known about Rossi’s expected return date. VR46 has some of the biggest shoes in the paddock to fill but this should help the team gather points toward the manufacturer’s world title race with limited riders in the field.
Wataru Yoshikawa, who was born on September 26th, 1968 in Tokyo (putting him in the over 40 veterans club), won the Japanese Superbike Championship for Yamaha in 1994 and 1999. Between 1992 and 2002 he made many wild-card appearances in the World Superbike Championship for Yamaha and in 1996 completed a full season, finishing 9th.
He raced as a wild card once in MotoGP in 2002, finishing 12th. Since then he has been heavily involved as a test rider for the Yamaha MotoGP program, giving him an in-depth knowledge of the YZR-M1.
Lin Jarvis (Managing Director of Yamaha Motor Racing Srl) says: “We have considered many different scenarios and candidate riders to fill the temporary vacant seat in the Fiat Yamaha Team.”
“We had always planned to use a rider from within the Yamaha Motor & Tech 3 family but for each rider we considered who is in active competition, their move to the Fiat Yamaha Team would have created another problem for their own racing program or for the teams in which they are engaged.”
“Finally, after a great deal of consideration, we have selected Wataru Yoshikawa, our Japanese YZR-M1 Test rider, to join us as our substitute rider. We provisionally plan for three races (Catalunya, Sachsenring and Laguna Seca) but we will adjust the plan accordingly when we know more about Valentino’s expected date of return. The benefit of Wataru’s presence in our team will be threefold.”
“Firstly he brings with him a wealth of experience riding the YZR-M1.”
“Secondly his presence allows us to fulfill our contractual obligations and to join the team’s quest to accumulate points for the Team Championship.”
“Thirdly he will gain valuable first hand MotoGP race experience in three challenging circuits which will surely be very useful to assist him and Yamaha with the future development of the YMR-M1. We look forward to welcoming Wataru into our team while we wait for Valentino’s return to full fitness.”
Wataru Yoshikawa says: “I’m happy to have this chance to stand-in for Valentino while he is recovering and to compete in MotoGP again for the first time since 2002, when I raced at Motegi.”
“Looking at the Fiat Yamaha Team results with the 2010 YZR-M1, I can see that the winter developments were correct and now I am looking forward to having the chance to gather some ‘real racing’ data, which will be very helpful for the future development of the M1.”
Yamaha has won the Constructor’s Title for the last two-years and looks to repeat for a third time.
Yamaha M1 Specifications
> Engine Liquid cooled Crossplane crankshaft inline four-cylinder, four stroke.
> Power Over 200 horsepower (147KW).
> Top speed In excess of 320kmh.
> Transmission Six-speed cassette-type gearbox, with alternative gear ratios available.
> Chassis Aluminium twin tube delta box, multi-adjustable steering geometry/wheelbase/ride height. Aluminium swingarm.
> Suspension Ohlins upside down front forks and Ohlins rear shock, all adjustable for pre-load, high and low-speed compression and rebound damping. Alternative rear suspension links available.
> Wheels Marchesini 16.5 front, 16.5 in rear.
> Tyres Bridgestone, 16.5 front, 16.5 in rear, available as slick, intermediate, wet and hand-cut tyres
> Brakes Brembo, two 320mm carbon front discs, two four-piston callipers. Single 220mm stainless steel rear disc, twin-piston calliper.
> Weight 150 kg. In accordance with FIM regulations.