Michael van der Mark may be flying to Aragon to replace Valentino Rossi at the fourth Spanish round, but it is still not 100% certain that the Dutch Yamaha WorldSBK rider will get to make his MotoGP debut aboard Rossi's Movistar Yamaha M1.
According to reports in various Italian media, Valentino Rossi is to test his fitness on a Yamaha R6 at Misano this week. Just 18 days after breaking the tibia and fibula of his right leg and having surgery to insert titanium pins into the bones to fix them, Rossi will attempt to ride an R6 to gauge whether it will be worth his while flying to Spain for the Aragon round of MotoGP.
Riding at Aragon would be a huge challenge, let alone racing there. The doctors' prognosis was that Rossi would need 30 days of recovery and rehabilitation before he would be in any shape to ride. That forecast is already optimistic: the last time Rossi broke his leg, it was over 40 days before he could return to racing. This break is less severe, however, which may allow an earlier return. Which is the reason Rossi wants to assess his ability to ride on an R6.
There is one major, and possibly insurmountable obstacle to a return, however. The weather forecast for Misano is not looking promising. It is set to rain on and off at Misano on Tuesday, meaning finding an hour of dry track time may prove impossible. Riding in the wet would be extremely inadvisable, but it would also not tell Rossi enough about whether his leg is strong enough to withstand the rigors of riding a MotoGP machine in the dry. Rossi will need dry track time to get a genuine idea of how fit he is.
Delaying until Wednesday is not really an option, as the weather forecast is much worse for then. Also, Rossi's crew chief Silvano Galbusera will need to be on his way to Aragon on Wednesday, making it even more difficult to test.
If Rossi decides to head to Aragon - with or without trying to ride a bike at Misano first - then he will have the first three sessions of practice to make up his mind. The FIM rules state that riders can be replaced up to 2 hours before the start of qualifying. It is unlikely that Rossi would leave it that long, however, as that would leave Michael van der Mark, who has no prior experience on a MotoGP bike, no time to get a feel for the bike, and ruin any chance the Dutchman might have of scoring an acceptable result.
The very fact that Rossi is even considering this is a sign that he still doesn't consider himself out of the championship race completely. Though he trails the leaders, Marc Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso, by 42 points with only 125 points left in play for the next five races, this season has been such an unpredictable one that it may be worth taking the risk. That gamble, however, would only pay off if Rossi believed he could obtain a solid haul of points in Aragon. With a painful and weakened leg, against Marquez, Dovizioso, and Maverick Viñales all in the form of their lives, at a track which Marquez and Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa love, would be a very big ask indeed.