Randy de Puniet's crash and subsequent collision at the Sachsenring reduced the already threatened MotoGP grid from 17 to 16. The LCR Honda rider suffered a fractured tibia and fibula in the incident, and is clearly incapable of riding at next weekend's US GP at Laguna Seca. And so the search for a substitute is on.
But as the drama surrounding finding a replacement for Valentino Rossi and Hiroshi Aoyama so amply demonstrated, finding someone to ride the MotoGP bikes is extremely difficult. Finding a rider who also understands the unique character of Laguna Seca and has experience on a MotoGP bike is even more rare.
Yet such a rider exists: Roger Lee Hayden rode a wildcard Kawasaki at the 2007 US GP, scoring an impressive 10th place on the bike. And so according to both Cycle News and Superbikeplanet.com, Roger Lee is being given serious consideration as the replacement for the injured De Puniet. The reports indicate that Hayden has been given clearance by his Pedercini Kawasaki World Superbike team to take the ride if he wishes. And certainly, the younger Hayden is a common site in the MotoGP paddock, often visiting races to watch his older brother Nicky.
According to GPOne.com, two Italians could also be in the frame for the ride. Mattia Pasini is currently out of work, having split earlier with his JiR Moto2 team at the Barcelona race. Niccolo Canepa has more extensive MotoGP experience, but the Italian failed to convince aboard the Pramac Ducati, and has not done much better in Moto2. And given that his teammate Alex de Angelis has also temporarily deserted the team to replace Hiroshi Aoyama in MotoGP, permission for Canepa to make the switch is unlikely to be forthcoming.
Pasini is a more likely candidate, though not perhaps to replace De Puniet. Aleix Espargaro's participation in the US GP is far from certain, after the Pramac Ducati rider fractured a vertebra in the same crash that fractured De Puniet's leg. Pasini has already tested a Ducati Desmosedici, and so a move to the Pramac team would seem the more logical option for the Italian.
The injuries underline the thinness of the grids in MotoGP, however. Even with one rider returning from injury, the loss of two more could reduce the grid potentially to 15. And that is something which sponsors are just not prepared to accept.