Stoner's Return: The Media Feeding Frenzy Continues
Casey Stoner continues to make headlines, though whether the basis on which the stories are written merit the headlines or not remains to be seen. The most reliable information comes from the well-connected Matt Birt at Motorcycle News. According to this story over at MCN, Birt spoke to Ducati team boss Livio Suppo, who informed him that he had spoken to Casey Stoner, who was already in Europe, having landed in Switzerland, and preparing to fly to Estoril and ready to race, though Suppo emphasized that expectations were low for the Australian. "It is not about him coming back and winning the next four races," Suppo told MCN, but rather about making the 2007 World Champion comfortable and working on the 2010 bike ready for next year's championship challenge.
While MCN's story is built on fairly strong foundations, the story in the Spanish press is a little shakier. Motocuatro is assuring their readers that Stoner will return at Estoril, but the site is basing it's story on contact with the Ducati press officer, who has assured Motocuatro that she has spoken to Stoner, as always prior to writing the pre-race press release, and Stoner has told her that he will be ready to race in Portugal. In short, Motocuatro are writing that the press release will state that Stoner will return. When stories are being written speculating on the possible contents of a press release, then you know for sure that you are in the middle of a media feeding frenzy.
That does not mean that the story is entirely without merit, however. The Motocuatro story goes on to cover the seriousness of the problems inside the Ducati garage. As reported earlier, Marlboro is livid with Stoner for taking time off without consulting the team, and the subsequent chasing of first Jorge Lorenzo and then Dani Pedrosa has reportedly soured relations between Stoner and Ducati. Livio Suppo has had his hands full trying to manage the problems, and has continually denied any rumors of a rift between himself and his rider, though the rumors persist. Motocuatro reports that Stoner may still be trying to get out early from his contract with Ducati, but with all of the factory seats filled, the Australian would have nowhere to go, making his best bet to stay put, and see where his options lie for 2011. The chances of the factory teams looking even remotely similar in 2011 to the way they look today seem very close to zero indeed.