Niccolo Canepa's weekend at Phillip Island got off to a bad start. The Pramac Ducati rider crashed during the first session of free practice on Friday, going down at the - literally - scorching Doohan corner at around 200 km/h. The Italian slid a long way on the tarmac, burning a hole through his leathers and removing a big chunk of skin from his right arm and elbow. His injuries were sufficiently serious to require a skin transplant at a Melbourne hospital, and his participation at this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang was put in doubt.
On Monday, Canepa received the final word. The Italian was advised by doctors in Australia not to race at Sepang, as the injury was not healed sufficiently to attempt to compete. Canepa's place will be taken by Aleix Espargaro once again. The Spaniard, who will be joining the Pramac Ducati team next season, was put on standby last weekend, as soon as the extent of Canepa's injuries became clear. The itinerant Espargaro, who has spent the season racing Moto2 in the Spanish championship, as well as substitute rides on the Balatonring Aprilia RSA 250 and the Pramac Ducati, impressed Pramac bosses and MotoGP fans alike with his strong showing at Indianapolis and Misano. Espargaro needs 1 point to draw level with Yuki Takahashi, who left the series at Laguna Seca, and 4 points to catch Sete Gibernau, whose team withdrew Assen.