Yamaha test rider Wataru Yoshikawa has been given the unenviable task of replacing the legendary Valentino Rossi on the Fiat Yamaha team.The 41-year-old Japanese rider will join the team beginning at next week's seventh round of the MotoGP World Championship in Catalunya. Yoshikawa will not only have Rossi's bikes, but also his veteran crew, until the Italian is fit to return to racing. Rossi broke his lower leg during practice for the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello on June 5.Yoshikawa, a two-time Japanese Superbike Champion, in 1994 and 1999, is expected to race at Barcelona, Sachsenring, and Laguna Seca, a stretch of three races in four weeks."We have considered many different scenarios and candidate riders to fill the temporary vacant seat in the Fiat Yamaha Team," said Lin Jarvis, Managing Director of Yamaha Motor Racing. "We had always planned to use a rider from within the Yamaha Motor & Tech 3 family but for each rider we considered who is in active competition, their move to the Fiat Yamaha Team would have created another problem for their own racing program or for the teams in which they are engaged." Among the riders being considered to replace Rossi was his former teammate, Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Colin Edwards. Yamaha World Superbike rider Cal Crutchlow was a part of that scenario, with Crutchlow moving into Edwards' spot on the Tech 3 team. "Finally, after a great deal of consideration, we have selected Wataru Yoshikawa, our Japanese YZR-M1 Test rider, to join us as our substitute rider. We provisionally plan for three races, but we will adjust the plan accordingly when we know more about Valentino's expected date of return.'Jarvis said that Yoshikawa brought a "wealth of experience riding the YZR-M1," that his presence "allows us to fulfill our contractual obligations and to join the team's quest to accumulate points for the Team Championship," and that he will "gain valuable first hand MotoGP race experience in three challenging circuits" which he can put to good use in the future development of the YZR-M1."I'm happy to have this chance to stand-in for Valentino while he is recovering and to compete in MotoGP again for the first time since 2002, when I raced at Motegi," Yoshikawa said. "Looking at the Fiat Yamaha Team results with the 2010 YZR-M1, I can see that the winter developments were correct and now I am looking forward to having the chance to gather some ‘real racing' data, which will be very helpful for the future development of the M1."

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Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.

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