The search for a replacement MotoGP rider, which seemed so difficult for Valentino Rossi and Hiroshi Aoyama, has not been so complicated for Randy de Puniet's replacement, it seems. Last night, we reported on rumors that Roger Lee Hayden was to replace the Frenchman on the LCR Honda at Laguna Seca, and this morning, it appears that the news has been confirmed. The extremely well-connected Italian site GPOne.com is reporting that the the youngest of the three Hayden brothers has been confirmed as De Puniet's replacement for the Red Bull US GP in Monterey.
Hayden was an obvious choice to replace De Puniet at Laguna, as he had several key factors working in his favor. Firstly, he has experience on a MotoGP bike, although that experience is from 2007, when he rode a wildcard Kawasaki at Laguna, finishing 10th on his first time on the bike. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Roger Lee knows Laguna Seca like the back of his hand, having ridden it in the AMA for so many years. This is a crucial factor in selecting the American, as any former 250 or current Moto2 riders drafted in are unlikely ever to have seen the track, as the junior classes have never accompanied MotoGP to California since the series returned there in 2005, for reasons of cost.
Thirdly, the youngest Hayden has a good relationship with American Honda, having raced Supersport bikes for the brand in the AMA. Hayden is also booked in to ride an American Honda-backed Moriwaki Moto2 bike as a wildcard at Indianapolis. With American Honda having formally withdrawn from the AMA since the DMG took over running the series, having an American rider on a Honda at the US rounds of the MotoGP series is extremely important to Honda's US distributor.
It is unlikely - though not impossible - that Hayden will continue to replace De Puniet after Laguna Seca. The Frenchman, who broke both his tibia and fibula, was scheduled to have surgery on Sunday evening, to have a pin inserted in the leg, in an operation very similar to that which fixed Valentino Rossi's fractured leg. De Puniet was slightly more lucky than Rossi, as the Frenchman did not suffer a compound fracture, the bone not breaking the skin and risking infection. De Puniet now has 28 days to recover before the next round of MotoGP at Brno, which could see the Frenchman fit enough to race again.
The other rider injured in the three-bike pile up in the first part of the race at the Sachsenring was Aleix Espargaro. The Pramac Ducati rider was taken to a local hospital, where a CAT scan revealed he had a fractured C7 vertebra, and also looked to be ruled out of the Laguna Seca race. But closer examination revealed that the injury could be an old one, rather than a new fracture, giving hope that the Spaniard may be able to ride after all.
According to the leading Spanish website Motoworld.es, Espargaro's medical results have been sent to Dr Angel Villamor, a leading trauma specialist in Spain. Dr Villamor will examine them in Spain, while Espargaro flies to the US with the team. If the fracture is determined to be an old one, then Espargaro will be given the all clear to race at Laguna Seca, and if not, the Spaniard will sit out the race. If Espargaro is ruled out of the US GP, the team have already decided they will not replace the Spaniard.