Michael van der Mark is to replace Valentino Rossi at Aragon. The Dutch WorldSBK rider has been selected to stand in for the nine-time world champion, while Rossi recovers from the leg he fractured in a training accident just over a week ago.
Van der Mark faces a challenging weekend. He will have no time on the bike beforehand to acclimatize himself to either the Yamaha M1 or the Michelin MotoGP tires. There is not enough time or testing opportunities to put the Dutchman on the bike ahead of this weekend. He will not have to learn the track, as WorldSBK also races at the circuit, but expectations will not be set too high.
The naming of Van der Mark as Rossi's replacement is something of a surprise. Katsuyuki Nakasuga has subbed for injured riders previously, and has a lot of experience on a MotoGP bike. Nakasuga is scheduled to appear as a wildcard rider at the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi, though, and this may have conditioned Yamaha's choice.
Van der Mark's teammate Alex Lowes also has MotoGP experience, having already replaced Bradley Smith in the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team last year at two races, and participated in the Brno test before Silverstone and Misano. However, it is believed that Yamaha Europe, who pay the bills for much of the Pata Yamaha WorldSBK program, were not keen to put Lowes on the bike, preferring him to concentrate on the WorldSBK championship, where he is fifth, with an outside chance at taking fourth from Marco Melandri.
Below is the press release from Yamaha announcing Van der Mark as Rossi's replacement, and the WorldSBK website has an interview with Van der Mark where he talks about the opportunity he has been given.
Michael van der Mark to Replace Rossi in Aragon
Yamaha's WorldSBK rider Michael van der Mark will be riding Valentino Rossi's YZR-M1 in round 14 of the 2017 MotoGP World Championship, staged at the MotorLand Aragón track in Spain, while the Italian is recovering from his leg injury.
Rossi is making good progress with his rehabilitation process. However, it is expected that he will not be able to compete again before the Grand Prix of Japan at the Twin Ring Motegi, held from October 13th - 15th.
For the Aragón race, Van der Mark will be backed by Rossi's usual crew. This opportunity will provide the 24-year-old with a similar MotoGP experience to the one fellow Yamaha WorldSBK rider and 2017 Suzuka 8-hours Endurance Race winner Alex Lowes was given last year. The Brit replaced Bradley Smith in the Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team at the British, San Marino, and Aragón Grand Prix.
Unlike Lowes, who had the benefit of some testing mileage in Brno, Czech Republic, prior to taking part in the MotoGP weekends, Van der Mark will debut in the premier class on the YZR-M1 without any training. Nevertheless, the three-time Suzuka8H winner is well accustomed to the demands of working for a factory team. The Dutchman is also no stranger to the MotoGP paddock, having competed in seven 125cc Grands Prix in 2010, and in the 2011 Moto2 race in Assen, the Netherlands. Moreover, his experience in the FIM Superbike (WorldSBK) and Supersport World Championships, and the European Superstock 600 make him well acquainted with the MotorLand Aragón circuit, having raced there seven times before.
Managing Director, Yamaha Motor Racing
"Following Valentino's crash on Thursday, August 31st, Yamaha decided not to replace him at the San Marino Grand Prix, but for the next Grand Prix in Aragón the team is obliged to enter two riders. It being virtually impossible for Valentino to be fit to race in Aragón, Yamaha decided to search for a capable replacement from within its own pool of contracted riders. Having previously used Katsuyuki Nakasuga to fill in for Jorge Lorenzo in 2011 and Alex Lowes to replace Bradley Smith in 2016, we decided that Michael van der Mark should have the opportunity this time around. It is never easy to step in to replace another rider and even more difficult to replace Valentino Rossi, but we believe that Michael has all the credentials and experience to do a good job. We will give him our very best support and wish him every success for this exciting opportunity. We also hope that Valentino will continue to make a rapid recovery and that we will see him again, back on his YZR-M1, on the earliest possible occasion."
Michael van der Mark
Yamaha Factory Racing Rider
"I'm excited to be given the opportunity to ride the YZR-M1 at the Aragón MotoGP round. I've never ridden a MotoGP bike before, so this will be a completely new experience for me. I'm very curious to see what it feels like to ride on such a machine. I realise that it won't be easy going straight into an official practice session without any prior testing. Nevertheless, I'm very grateful to Yamaha for the opportunity. I'm sure it will be a great learning experience."
Michael van der Mark Personal Profile:
Date of birth: 26-10-1992
Place of birth: Gouda, The Netherlands
Height: 180 cm
Weight: 69 kg
Marital state: In a relationship
2017: Currently 7th in the Superbike World Championship / Winner Suzuka 8-hours
2016: 4th Superbike World Championship
2015: 7th Superbike World Championship
2014: 1st Supersport World Championship / Winner Suzuka 8-hours
2013: 4th Supersport World Championship / Winner Suzuka 8-hours
2012: 1st European Superstock 600 Championship
2011: 3rd European Superstock 600 Championship / Wildcard - Moto2 GP, Assen
2010: Seven 125cc Grands Prix / European Superstock 600 Championship
2009: 1st ONK Dutch 125cc Championship / 18th Dutch 125cc GP
2008: 1st ONK Dutch 125cc Championship / Selected CEV Spanish Championship
2007: 2nd ONK Dutch 125cc Championship
2006: 2nd Dutch Junior Cup
2005: 4th Dutch Junior Cup