Wataru Yoshikawa has the ominous MotoGP role of standing-in for the injured Valentino Rossi. Call it a dream job or maybe call it a nightmare.
Hayden, Pedrosa, Stoner and your friendly teammate Lorenzo would be there to support you. And, of course, you have the most proven race package and team: Davide Brivio, Jeremy Burgess and your three personal mechanics there to comfort you!?!
What would it be like sitting on the GP tarmac with over 200 crossplane hp fitted to a 150 kg aluminum delta box machine between your legs with the five-minute board still showing?
Daunting I presume, seconds before the pure exhilaration sets-in as the revs pick-up and the lights switch from yellow to green. How do prepare for an elbow-to-elbow motorcycle road race competition, with speeds in excess of 195 mph and your knee dragging on every lap?
Intimidation quickly switches to adrenaline. Having not raced motorcycles competitively since 2002, Yamaha test rider Yoshikawa was faced with this impracticable racing task. Then add difficult, hot conditions and a racetrack you have never seen before to the mix.
Lap-by-lap the adrenaline is quickly replaced by fear and fatigue. Keep telling yourself to breath, be smooth and stay focused (but not target fixated) on the task of finishing in one piece.
Yoshikawa did and the 41-year-old fought to the MotoGP race finish. In the end Yoshikawa wowed none but did put in a brave performance during his inaugural Rossi-ride in Catlunya last weekend.
Yoshikawa placed 15th but was the last of the finishers. He finished ahead of only Marco Simoncelli who crashed-out his San Carlo Honda on lap 12 and Aleix Espargaro who’s Ducati “slipped on the asphalt” on lap 20. Andrea Dovizioso, who had also crashed, pick-up his bike to re-pass Watura for 14th.
Kousuke Akiyoshi, the Honda MotoGP test rider, who replaced the injured Hiroshi Aoyama placed 13th. Akiyoshi’s only target for the weekend was to beat his Japanese counterpart in every session and the 35-years-old met the target.
Wataru Yoshikawa brought home the Valentino Rossi Fiat Yamaha M1 a full minute 35-seconds behind his teammate and race winner Jorge Lorenzo. He was rewarded with one championship point for his efforts, something most of us will never accomplish.
Wataru Yoshikawa says: “It was really hard to ride in the heat plus after eight years without racing 25 laps is a lot, but I am really happy to finish and to win one point. I hope that this experience will help me at MotoGP Sachsenring and in my future work.”
Davide Brivio says: “We are really happy that Wataru was able to finish and he really deserved this championship point. He did very well this weekend in an extremely difficult situation; it was very hot, he’s been away from racing a long time and he didn’t know the track so I think he can be happy with what he has achieved.”
Valentino Rossi on the other hand, watches from his recovery room, thinking; “motorcycle racing is about the rider, not the bike”, as he so perfectly proved in his daring switch from Honda to Yamaha back in 2004. Could 2011 be the year for Rossi to prove this once again, but this time on a Ducati?