Norick Abe will replace the injured Marco Melandri in the MotoGP race at Phakisa on April 27, while Daijiro Kato, who had a horror crash at Suzuka, is improving, but still in danger.

Norick Abe will replace the injured Marco Melandri in the MotoGP race at Phakisa on April 27, while Daijiro Kato, who had a horror crash at Suzuka, is improving, but still in danger.

The 20-year-old Melandri had multiple leg injuries after falling during the practice round of the Japanse Grand Prix. The cast is to come off soon, but doctors cannot yet say when he will return to action.

Abe, a Yamaha factory test rider, has been drafted into the Fortuna Yamaha Team. Abe, who finished the 2002 season in sixth place, has been practising on the 2003 race-spec YZR-M1.

Meanwhile Honda has decided not to replace Kato for the Phakisa race. They will take part with Sete Gibernau.

Kato skidded off on the second lap at a fast right-hand corner at Suzuka, hitting a concrete wall and writing off his Honda. He has shown slight signs of improvement, but is still in a coma. Doctors said his heartbeat and blood pressure are now stable, but his brain pressure is said to be still high, which prevents doctors from applying any active treatment. He will never ride again and doctors are not sure he will come out of the coma.

"His respiration is still machine-assisted but his heartbeat, which stopped last Sunday, is now steady," Dr Costa told his clinicamobile.com website. "His blood pressure was extremely unstable after the accident but has now stabilised. Daijiro's brain is reacting and sending life signals to the monitors."

“This is a very difficult moment for the whole team,” said team manager Fausto Gibernau. “I know Daijiro very well, because we spent lots of time together last winter and I am sure that he would want us to race at Welkom and do our best. I believe the best way to give him our support right now is to keep on going forward, never give up and stay close to each other.”

Honda said it still did not know what had caused Kato’s accident. “Honda representatives have examined the video records generated by the Suzuka Circuit’s surveillance cameras, but the video evidence is not sufficient to determine the cause of the accident. Honda Racing (HRC) has examined the motorcycle and analysed the available data regarding its operation, but found no irregularities,” the manufacturer said.