There was a fairly hefty injury toll at the cool and dusty Phillip Island track on Friday. There were fallers in all of the categories, but the heaviest of the lot were Hector Barbera in the 250cc class and Niccolo Canepa in MotoGP. Barbera highsided, landing heavily on his back and knocking the wind out of him. As he struggled for breath, Barbera told the press afterwards, he feared the worst, the incident bringing back bad memories of his huge crash at Motegi last year. This time he got away with just some very nasty and very painful bruising, but he is currently behind held under observation, just to make sure that the cracked vertebrae he suffered last year have not been injured again.
Niccolo Canepa was not so lucky. The Italian slid a long way after crashing at Turn 1 and burning a hole in his leathers and through his arm. After examination at the Clinica Mobile, he was taken off to hospital in Melbourne for examination, where it was decided he would need a skin graft, though Canepa had suffered no nerve damage as had been feared at first. The injury means that the Italian will not be able to race on Sunday, and will miss the Australian Grand Prix.
With just a week between the race at Australia and Sepang, the Italian is also doubtful for the Malaysian Grand Prix next weekend. As a result, newly-signed Aleix Espargaro is likely to be drafted in to replace Canepa at Sepang. Pramac Ducati team boss Paolo Campinoti had initially hoped to replace Canepa with Espargaro for the remainder of the season after Misano, but Canepa and Ducati insisted that the Italian serve out his term with the Pramac squad. Campinoti and Espargaro look likely to see at their initial plan come to fruition, at Sepang at least.
Canepa is likely to be fit enough to take his place back with the Pramac team for the final race of the season at Valencia, and Canepa's final race in the class. But the Italian may still be back next year, though this time in Moto2, as Canepa is being linked to a number of Moto2 riders for next season. Although with 37 seats to be filled in the class, so is everyone other talented rider without a contract.