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Season over for Melandri as Abe fills in for Valencia

Season over for Melandri as Abe fills in for Valencia

Season over for Melandri as Abe fills in for Valencia

Marco Melandri's debut MotoGP season is over. The still reigning 250cc World Champion will not travel to Valencia next week preferring instead to prematurely end his injury-hit campaign to undergo an operation on his right shoulder next Monday in Italy.

The factory Fortuna Yamaha team have announced that Norick Abe will once again steer the number ‘33' machine at the Spanish venue. The Japanese rider has already stepped in for Melandri at the first two races of the year after the 21 year old Italian broke his leg in practice for the season opener at Suzuka; he scored results of 11th and 8th.

Melandri suffered a dislocation to his right shoulder and a haematoma to his left heel when he fell during last Sunday's Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island. His shoulder was popped back in place at the circuit clinic even before the race was over but upon further examinations in Italy this week the damage to the young Italian's right shoulder cap is worse than initially diagnosed and that an operation is necessary for it to heal correctly. After consultation with the team it made sense for Melandri to undergo surgery now so as not to risk further injury and to ensure a full recovery in time for the 2004 pre-season testing in January.

"I'm feeling quite okay, I have a little bit of pain in my shoulder but not all the time," said Melandri today. "Since I got back from Australia I have had an extensive check-up with Doctor Costa and a specialist who operated on my left shoulder two years ago. The check-up revealed that everything around my shoulder is broken and that only an operation will repair it for good. I had exactly the same operation on my left shoulder and that is absolutely fine now, so I know that it will heal without a problem.

"To ride a MotoGP bike you must be 100 per cent fit. The four-strokes are so heavy to control and your shoulders carry a lot of that weight. If I tried to ride in Valencia it would be very painful and I wouldn't get a good result. I'm going ahead with the operation now because it will give me time to recover and to be in perfect health for the start of 2004. After the operation I will need one month of rest, one month of physiotherapy, and one month of training. I'm sorry to miss Valencia but this way I will be ready to ride again in January."

Melandri currently rests 15th in the Championship standings with a best result of 5th taken at Motegi.

Abe, 28 years old, is a former GP regular who finished sixth in the 2002 Championship. In 2003 Abe has ridden as Yamaha's factory test rider and competed in several rounds as a wildcard.

MotoGP, 2003, Marco Melandri

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