After Olivier Jacque badly gashed his arm in a crash during this afternoon's MotoGP Free Practice session, rumors have been flying concerning a possible replacement. At first, it looked like OJ could be out for several weeks, and probably a couple of races, after damaging muscles in his arm. However, after successful surgery, performed by the doctors of MotoGP's hospital-in-residence, the Clinica Mobile, the Frenchman's chances of recovery have greatly improved, after doctors succeeded in closing up the wound without requiring a skin graft.
With his surgery so successful, Jacque's chances of returning to action in Le Mans in two weeks have vastly improved, though a decision will not be made for a while yet. Unfortunately for Kawasaki, however, they do not currently have a test rider on call, OJ being the test rider for last year, along with Fonsi Nieto, currently competing in World Superbikes. Nature, and motorcycle journalists, abhor a vacuum, and journalists tend to fill the void with speculation and rumor. In the case at hand, the rumor is that former Superbike World Champion and AMA contender Neil Hodgson could take OJ's place at Le Mans, at least according to Toby Moody at Autosport.com.
The interesting thing about this rumor is that it makes a good deal of sense. Hodgson is currently testing Bridgestone tires on a Ducati, substituting for Shinichi Itoh. Though he is riding the Ducati, he is under contract to Bridgestone, and as the Kawasakis are already using Bridgestones, this would leave Hodgson free to take Jacque's seat. We won't learn the truth of this until a few days before Le Mans, when a decision will be made on OJ's chances of racing, but with France being very important to Kawasaki, there is little or no chance that they will choose to run just a single rider at Le Mans.