Hiroshi Aoyama's horrible highside at Silverstone saw just 15 MotoGP riders take to the grid last Sunday for the race. And now that Aoyama has been examined more thoroughly, and the Interwetten Honda rider ruled out for at least two months with a fractured T12 vertebra, the prospect of just 15 riders on the grid for Assen, and 16 at Barcelona (by which time, the Fiat Yamaha team will have to replace the injured Valentino Rossi) was too much for the organizers, and measures have been taken to avert the declining numbers. From this weekend, Honda test rider Kousuke Akiyoshi has been drafted in to take Aoyama's place aboard the Interwetten Honda RC212V. Akiyoshi will also ride at Barcelona, filling the MotoGP team's immediate needs.
With those two races taken care of, that gives team manager Daniel Epp more time to find a more permanent solution to Aoyama's absence. In a press release today, issued to announce Akiyoshi replacing Aoyama, Epp spoke of the need for a "more stable" solution, but Epp faces a similar problem to that faced by the Fiat Yamaha team. With engines limited and money tight, there is a distinct lack of suitable candidates to replace anyone who injures themselves. Moving a rider up from Moto2 would seem the logical thing to do, but that merely shifts the problem elsewhere. In addition, a rookie - in the Interwetten team's case, Moto2 rider Thomas Luthi - would be more likely to crash the bike and accidentally damage an engine, leaving the team with a bigger problem at the end of the season. The extreme nature of the MotoGP bikes makes it almost impossible to be fast on the bikes without the benefit of extensive testing, as the results of this year's crop of former 250 riders has demonstrated.
Test riders, therefore, look more and more like the most sensible solution. As test riders, there would be few expectations on them to get results, and they would have little pressure on them to perform. They can gain very useful data which can help while developing the bikes, and perhaps most importantly, they can be relied upon to not have the red mist of battle descend upon them, and bring the bike home in one piece. The announcement that Akiyoshi will be replacing Aoyama is likely to presage a similar announcement from Fiat Yamaha, that one of their two test riders, Norihiko Fujiwara and Wataru Yoshikawa, will be filling in for Valentino Rossi until the Italian returns.