Injured Melandri replaced by Abe at Japanese GP

The Fortuna Yamaha Team has announced that Yamaha factory test rider Norick Abe will replace Marco Melandri for tomorrow's Japanese Grand Prix. Melandri sustained a double fracture of his right ankle and chipped his femur in a high-speed fall ...

The Fortuna Yamaha Team has announced that Yamaha factory test rider Norick Abe will replace Marco Melandri for tomorrow's Japanese Grand Prix. Melandri sustained a double fracture of his right ankle and chipped his femur in a high-speed fall yesterday during the first practice session at Suzuka. He is currently under observation at the Mie General Medical Centre near Yokkaichi, a thirty-minute drive from the circuit.

Norick Abe was already competing in this weekend's event riding the Yamaha test team YZR-M1 as a wildcard. Under rules introduced last year to the MotoGP World Championship, the team is permitted to nominate a replacement rider before noon on Saturday and Yamaha can withdraw the wildcard entry. A former two-time Japanese GP winner, Abe was fourteenth fastest in yesterday' s damp qualifying session.

The latest prototype version of the M1 features a different chassis, engine position and the twin-shock suspension first seen at February's IRTA test at Jerez. Since Abe is accustomed to riding this machine and has already completed the two days of testing on Sunday and Monday and yesterday's first day of MotoGP practice at Suzuka, he will continue with this bike today and Sunday.

The Fortuna Yamaha Team has added limited branding of the team's sponsors to the bike, but will not be able to replicate the full Fortuna Yamaha livery given the unforeseen circumstances and timing of the change. The test machine also uses different bodywork than the Fortuna Yamaha M1s of Melandri and Checa.

Commenting on the decision, Fortuna Yamaha Team director Davide Brivio said:

"After consultation with our title sponsor, Fortuna, and with Yamaha's motorsport management we have decided to replace Marco with Norick Abe for this race. After the weekend we shall assess Marco's condition before making any final decision about the South African GP.

"The decision to replace Marco immediately means that we stand to gain points in the new Teams' World Championship and it also seems correct that Yamaha's wholly-owned factory team should field two riders in the company's home Grand Prix. It may look a little strange that he will ride in different leathers and livery to Carlos, but we feel that this is the most sensible solution. He has more experience with Yamaha's test bike than the 2003 race-spec M1.

"We have discussed our decision with Marco in hospital and, while he is obviously extremely unhappy that he won't be making his MotoGP debut on Sunday, he is fully supportive of the decision and wishes Abe well."

NOTE: The team has established an e-mail address for anybody wishing to send "get well" messages to Marco Melandri.

The address is: marco@yamahamotogp.com

Marco will be very happy to receive messages from fans and supporters around the world even if he will be unable to reply.

FYT rider Melandri injured at Japanese GP practice

-fyt-

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