The Yamaha MotoGP team has announced World Superbike (WSBK) rider Garett Gerloff as the replacement for Valentino Rossi for this weekend's MotoGP European Grand Prix. With Rossi still recovering from COVID-19, the team had to field a second rider on the works YZR-M1. The Yamaha rider underwent a test earlier this week, which returned positive, prompting the team to bring a new rider onboard for this weekend. Rossi already missed the Aragon doubleheader last month after testing positive for COVID-19 following the French GP.
Speaking about the opportunity, the 25-year-old Gerloff said, "I'm so honoured that Yamaha has considered me for this opportunity. This year has already been quite the adventure, and this would be the cherry on top. It's been a dream of mine to ride the Yamaha YZR-M1 MotoGP bike since I started racing so many years ago, and to potentially have it happen is really exciting. But I am just sorry to get this opportunity under these unfortunate circumstances for Valentino. I feel really bad for him and I hope that he recovers soon, we all miss the number 46 on track! All the best to him. If I do end up riding this weekend, it will be an uphill battle not knowing the bike, tyres, brakes, etc. Also, I have never been to the Valencia track before. But I'm confident in myself and ready for the challenge! Thanks to all at Yamaha. Bring it on!"
Speaking about his condition, Rossi said, "I felt bad for two days, then in a few days I came back to being fully fit, at my 100 per cent. I self-isolated at home all the time and I followed the medical advice closely. It's a very sad and difficult situation, but that's the way it is. Unfortunately, yesterday (Tuesday 3 November), I had another test and it came back positive again, like all previous ones. Luckily I still have two more chances to be back on track on Friday or Saturday. I am very sad because I am feeling well, and I can't wait to be back aboard my M1 and be reunited with my team. I really hope the next PCR test result will be negative, because missing two races was already two too many."
Gerloff will be joining Maverick Vinales in the pits for the European GP, but it will depend on Rossi's future test results, if the WSBK rider will fill in for the final two races as well. Gerloff is a former MotoAmerica Superbike rider, who made is WSBK earlier this year. The rider joined the GRT Yamaha team in WSBK and scored three podiums in the Catalunya and Estoril rounds this year. The European GP will mark his MotoGP debut.
Gerloff will also be the first American rider on the grid since the late Nicky Hayden stepped in for an injured Dani Pedrosa at Honda for the 2016 Australian GP. It's interesting to note that Yamaha's official test rider Jorge Lorenzo did not take the seat despite his stellar credentials as a three-time MotoGP champion, as well as saddle time on the M1. More so, with speculations about Lorenzo looking at a testing role at Aprilia next year. The team reasoned that it did not want to bring a new rider at the last minute for an already overworked race team. However, MotoGP rules require Yamaha to run a replacement should its riders be unable to race.