Imagine you are Lin Jarvis, boss of Yamaha. It is Thursday evening, and you are in the car, driving home from Yamaha Motor Racing's headquarters in Monza. Your phone goes, and you answer it. It's someone from Valentino Rossi's entourage, calling to tell you that Rossi has crashed his enduro bike out training, and has been taken to hospital with a suspected broken leg. What do you do?
Well, first you call William Favero, Yamaha's communications manager, and sort out the communications process. But after that, and once you get confirmation that Rossi's leg really is broken – a double break, tibia and fibula – then you start to think about whether you will have to field a substitute rider for the upcoming races. Who do you call?
A lot of people have been playing this game since late on Thursday evening, when news of Rossi's injury broke, but very few have been able to put themselves into the position of Lin Jarvis. Instead, the suggestions offered have been made from the perspective of possible future configurations of the Yamaha MotoGP team, or riders who deserve a chance in MotoGP, or just a particular fan's favorite rider, who they would like to see get a ride somewhere. So who are the candidates? Who will get the call? And more importantly, what motivates the decision that Lin Jarvis will eventually have to make?
Let's start by listing some of the names being thrown around as a possible replacement. The name fans mention most often is Johann Zarco, for all the obvious reasons. The Frenchman has made a stunning debut in MotoGP in the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, and currently sits sixth in the championship.
The two Pata Yamaha WorldSBK riders, Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark are also popular suggestions. Sitting in fifth and seventh in the WorldSBK title race, they have both made strong showings so far this year. Lowes has the added advantage of having MotoGP experience on Michelin tires, having filled in for the injured Bradley Smith last year at Silverstone and Misano. They also both know most of the tracks coming up, with Motegi the only track missing from the WorldSBK schedule.
Looking at past precedent, Yamaha test riders look the more likely way to go. Japanese veteran Katsuyuki Nakasuga is a known quantity, and has plenty of experience as both a wildcard and a substitute rider in MotoGP. His compatriot Kohta Nozane is a relatively new addition to the Yamaha stable, but rode the bike at the Sepang test back in January, where he proved to be just as fast as Nakasuga.
Replaced, but for how long?
There are many contingencies to consider when selecting a rider to replace an injured Valentino Rossi. The first question that needs answering is how long Rossi is expected to be absent. Though information on the Italian's injury is somewhat limited, we do know that he has had both tibia and fibula pinned, and has been sent home to recover. That suggests that surgery went well, and that Rossi intends to return sooner rather than later.
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