Jorge Lorenzo has flown the Fiat Yamaha M1 flag alone for the last three MotoGP races following Valentino Rossi’s accident in Mugello, but this weekend in Catalunya he will be joined by Yamaha’s experienced Japanese test rider, Wataru Yoshikawa.
The two-time Japanese Superbike Champion will be riding Rossi’s M1 while the Italian is out of action, backed by Rossi’s usual crew who make a welcome return to the paddock this week.
As one of the key test riders in Yamaha’s Moto GP development program, Yoshikawa is well acquainted with the M1 Bridgestone-shod motorcycles. Also, he has ridden as a wild card once previously in MotoGP, at the 2002 Motegi round, but this will be his first visit to the Montmeló circuit. And that was racing-years ago.
Other riders in the paddock have commented as to whether Yoshikawa was the best replacement for Rossi. His testing background is helpful but does the older test-rider have what it takes to make an impact the race day?
Wataru Yoshikawa says: “I’m excited about riding the M1 in Spain this week, even if I’m very sorry for Valentino’s injury. I have only ridden in a MotoGP race once, at Motegi in 2002, and this is the first time I have ridden at the Montmeló track.”
“We can see from the team’s results this season that Yamaha did a good job with the winter development of the M1 and I am sure that these few races I will contest now will be extremely helpful for the future development of our bike.”
Davide Brivio says: “This weekend our team will come back to the paddock after a strange time watching from home! We go to Barcelona where we have some amazing memories from last year.”
“Of course we will miss Valentino but he is recovering well and now we will give our maximum support to Wataru as he joins our team. It will be nice to see the fourth M1 back on the track, Wataru is an experienced rider even though he doesn’t know Barcelona and we will see what happens.”
The Circuit de Catalunya features one of the longest main straights in the world, which will give Yoshikawa a few seconds to think about his next racing move prior to approaching the corners. Fans will be watching from the vast grandstand, which is always full to bursting, with scrutiny and waiting for Rossi’s returns.
Yoshikawa will then have to negotiate the long radius, medium and high-speed sweeping corners, with two tight left-hand hairpins thrown into the mix. This variation combined with regular changes in camber makes the circuit particularly demanding on motorcycle chassis balance while rider front-end feel is a key concern for even the regular Grand Prix entries.
MotoGP race day tells all.