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How to solve the mystery of the wildcard replacement

Wed, 30 Jun 2010

With the two test riders coming forward to act as replacement riders for the injured Rossi and Aoyama, it brought back memories of the days when the grid would be gifted with wildcard riders from the respective countries.

The Japanese rounds were always attended by some of the top guys with experience of the 500GP and MotoGP bikes, through racing them in their domestic championships. What resulted was getting to witness the exciting and talented Japanese riders, and bring new riders to the attention of the teams.

Norick Abe was one of these riders who exploded on to the Grand Prix scene and really tested the regulars by rattling the cages of Mick Doohan and Kevin Schwantz. Abe’s wild body english on the Mister Donut Honda, with his extreme sat up over the front end riding style and long hair flapping in the slipstream mystified the audience and in particular a certain Valentino Rossi. But in true banzai style, Abe-san crashed out of the lead spectacularly with only three corners remaining in a fashion that created the legendary story of his debut.

After the race Marlboro Yamaha Team Roberts picked up Abe for the remainder of the 1994 500 Grand Prix season, and the Mister Donut Honda would be his only appearance on the World scene with onboard a Honda as Norick continued the rest of his racing career on Yamahas until he was sadly killed in a traffic accident in 2007.

Additional note: the above video is likely to be the exact same broadcast Valentino Rossi would watch when he got in from school, so make sure to watch part two here

Back to recent times, following the injuries of Valentino Rossi and Hiroshi Aoyama, both Fiat Yamaha and Interwetten Honda opted for the easy choice of bringing over the respective factory test riders, Kousuke Akiyoshi and Wataru Yoshikawa to act as stand-ins. Overall this could have granted the two manufacturers the chance to bring in some new and home-grown talent into the MotoGP paddock, obviously the situation with the rookie rule would have hindered Yamaha.

Rather than bringing in Akiyoshi to Interwetten Honda, they had the chance to bring in any rider as they are devoid of the rookie rule with being a privateer team. Currently Honda have a wide selection of talented and younger Japanese riders who would be more intriguing to the Aoyama's seat on the RC212V. There is Takumi Takahashi and 2009 JSB ST600 Champion, Yusuke Teshima both of whom are contesting the JSB1000 championship. But another interesting addition to the discussion is Ryuichi Kiyonari. Kiyo has since returned to British Superbike obscurity but would have been a more interesting choice. Also Kiyo has MotoGP experience but it came at an unfortunate time in taking the place of Daijiro Kato.

Katsuyuki Nakasuga is the current and consecutive JSB1000 Champion for 2008 and 2009 and is on his way to a third successive victory on the Yamaha R1. Nakasuga is 28 years old and possible too far gone for a career in MotoGP, but as a thank you for giving Yamaha two consecutive championships he would have been an optional choice over the 41 year old Yoshikawa, who is being brought in to replace Valentino Rossi even though he has only one previous MotoGP appearance in 2002 at Motegi where he finished 12th.

This is only a small selection of Japanese riders capable of the replacement rides, and this doesn't even take in to consideration replacement riders from different countries.

Both of the stand-ins will be facing off at Catalunya but it is more likely it'll be a fight for the final point.

By Robin Goodwin

See also: Following the Go-show, a wild onboard lap of Phillip Island, Rossi's Silverstone message to his fans, Parrish's predictions for Silverstone MotoGP.