Casey Stoner's Ducati MotoGP Test - Your Questions Answered

The return of Casey Stoner to Ducati as a test rider has raised more questions than it answered. Fans and media alike are in a state of confusion about his intentions, especially given the times he was setting on the Ducati Desmosedici GP15. What was he doing? Will he race again? When will he test again? To try to put this test and Stoner's role into perspective, here is what we know, what we think we know, and what we don't.

What was Stoner riding?

Casey Stoner spent all three days on the Ducati Desmosedici GP15. He did not test the GP16.

If he's a test rider, why didn't he test the GP16?

A lot of reasons. The GP16 is a brand new bike, and there aren't that many of them yet, so Ducati can't afford to have a test rider destroy one if they crash. The GP16 is not that different to the GP15, so there was plenty for Stoner to test which is transferable to the GP16. Stoner hadn't ridden a MotoGP bike in a year, and hadn't ridden a Ducati since 2010. He hadn't ridden Michelins since 2006, and MotoGP is now using a spec software. For this test, Stoner's aim was to get up to speed, learn and understand the Ducati and a 1000cc era MotoGP bike, complete with Michelins and spec software, and prepare himself for the next test, so that he can provide better input at the next test.

Then, of course, there are the sensitivities of the factory riders. All riders have rather large egos (a prerequisite for convincing yourself that going round in circles faster than others is in some way important), and they could easily see the arrival of Stoner as a threat. Andrea Dovizioso, especially, must have a sense of deja vu, the Italian having lost his seat at Repsol Honda after Stoner switched from Ducati. By giving Stoner the GP15 at the first test, while Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone concentrate on the GP16, the pecking order in the factory is made plain. Ducati cannot afford to upset their factory riders before the season even started.

Casey Stoner was perfectly happy about this situation. "We don't really want to overcomplicate things," Stoner said on Tuesday. "The riders want to do their testing with [the GP16] first. Maybe I'll get an opportunity in the future, but it's better just for me to get accustomed with everything, start to learn a little bit of the progression, and when we find where we want to be with the GP15, not necessarily where the limit is but can feel we can't go too much further, then maybe we will progress to the next version, and see how it works. But there's a lot of time between now and then."

If he wasn't testing the GP16, what was he testing?

After getting a feel for the bike and the tires, Stoner worked on testing major set up changes to try to gauge where the difference was. The purpose of tests like this is to take the bike outside of the safe base developed for the race track, and see if there are any surprises there, and whether the bike behaves as expected. Though the geometry of the GP16 has been changed to suit the Michelin tires, there is still plenty of work on geometry that a test rider can do which is transferable.

Stoner also spent time evaluating front tires for Michelin. Normally, this work is also done by factory riders, but with so much work to do with the new regulations, it is exactly the kind of testing that gets passed off to test riders and sometimes satellite riders. Cal Crutchlow also spent some time evaluating parts for Honda, while the Repsol Honda men focused on electronics and the latest version of the bike.

Stoner's future test program contains similar issues. At some point, Stoner is set to test the Ducati both with and without the winglets, in an attempt to understand the difference between the two. This is important, but is the kind of test work that factory riders are loath to do, as it does not provide immediate improvements. The role of a test rider is gathering the kind of basic data with which to push the direction of development. It is exactly the kind of dirty work which factory riders hate doing.

When is Stoner's next test?

Stoner's next test for Ducati will be a private test at Qatar after the official MotoGP test there.

Really? No Stoner at Phillip Island? Isn't that a missed opportunity?

It's a missed opportunity if you are the Phillip Island circuit, as having the Australian testing there would draw a big crowd to the track, and serve as a great appetizer for the Australian Grand Prix in October.

However, it isn't really a missed opportunity for Ducati. Phillip Island is a very special circuit, but its very nature makes it not well suited as a test track. What Phillip Island tests is the testicular fortitude of the rider, rather than the refinement of a motorcycle. The list of surprising motorcycles which have won there is long, including a Suzuki GSX-R1000 at last year's World Superbike race. "Phillip Island is a special track because you need to be really smooth, make corner speed and have a lot of grip," Maverick Viñales said of testing there. He agreed that the track was more about rider bravery than anything, but as the Suzuki has just had a horsepower boost, it was a good place to test himself as a rider. "I need to use more cojones if I have more power but for sure I have these cojones to use!" he joked.

If Stoner is already setting competitive times on the Ducati, will he be tempted to race?

Stoner himself says not. He said so repeatedly during the test, when asked the question on different days. On Tuesday, his response to being asked if he wanted to be out with the riders during a race was "No. I have no intention of doing that. It's nice to be back on track with them today, mainly to get the data, but I think I'm still going to enjoy standing on the side of the track watching the race rather than being out there." On Wednesday, he repeated that assertion again. "Honestly, I have no plan to race."

Could he change his mind? I don't think you can ever rule it out, but it seems unlikely. Speaking to people who knew him well, they put the chance at very small, but not zero. But there are good reasons to believe that he won't race again: years of racing and crashing have left him battered and bruised, the massive crash at Suzuka only making matters worse. Chatting to Stoner about his physical condition, the Australian mentioned that he couldn't turn his neck to the left properly to look behind him. He also has a recurrent back problem, though that is much better after finding a better therapy to help him with treatment. And earlier this year, he was hospitalized with kidney problems, from which he was thankfully recovered. Like all riders, he has had intimations of mortality. That kind of insight is what takes the ultimate edge off a rider's speed.

If he's not going to race, why is he testing?

Stoner himself answered this best. "My role is completely changed now," he said. "I'm not looking for those fine little details that are out there and comparing things [looking for the ultimate fast lap]. I suppose, I'm not an engineer, but I'm taking the role of an engineer as a test rider. A lot of test riders have careers where they want to achieve things and move forward, but I'm interested in each step, what it does, why it does it. I really want to see this go further forward and take it to another level. So I'm going to start learning all I can from these guys to get a better understanding, because there's a lot of complicated systems."

Would he like to become an engineer in the future? "Probably not a full time engineer, but if I wasn't going to race years ago, something that I wanted to do is get an engineering degree. So it would be nice to learn a lot more from these guys."

Stoner's time away from racing has not made him miss racing, but it has perhaps made him wish to be relevant somehow. Being able to be useful for Ducati, to be listened to and to be able to help them in the right direction, that is what Casey Stoner wants. What he wants, he said, is to be able to give the factory riders the best bike possible, so that they can challenge for the championship with it.

Stoner won on a Ducati which was unrideable. His feedback then didn't make the bike any better. Why would he be of any use now?

There is a common misconception, widely held, that the Ducati got worse because of Casey Stoner's input, and that therefore he is a very poor development rider. While the Ducati did get worse during the period in which Stoner was at Ducati, that had less to do with Stoner, and more to do with the way the racing department worked at Ducati.

Two examples of Stoner's sensitivity and feedback. Cristian Gabarrini once told my friend and fellow journalist Thomas Baujard of Moto Journal that Stoner came into the pits during a test at Qatar and told him that there was something wrong with the engine. Gabarrini looked at the data, and he and the Ducati engineers checked every aspect of the bike and the engine. They could find nothing. So Gabarrini asked Stoner to go out again, and the Australian reluctantly agreed. Halfway round the track on his out lap, the Ducati engine let go, leaving Stoner stranded. It was yet another confirmation for Gabarrini that he needed to trust Stoner's feelings over the data.

The other example came at this test at Sepang. When asked about how the Michelin tires felt, he gave an explanation for why so many riders had crashed in the afternoon of that day. "There's a little point after probably 45°, that it goes down just a little bit more, that it doesn't seem to match with the rear with some of the profiles that we've tested. And that gives everybody a little bit a nervous feeling, and essentially why people are struggling into Turn 5, a big fast open corner, going in, when the bike goes light, it doesn't like that feeling, and it gets the bike a little nervous, and I think that's when the front wants to break away. Everybody has been having a very similar crash there." The crashes were happening either on the way into the corner, or on the way out, both points where the rider is transitioning across that sensitive area. Other riders will just tell you, "it was a strange crash."

The ultimate proof of the error of putting the Ducati's problems down to Casey Stoner came when Valentino Rossi took his place at the Italian factory. Rossi's development credentials are beyond question: his feedback is exceptional ("like a datalogger" crew chief Silvano Galbusera told me), and he has a proven track record of pointing engineers in the right development direction. Ducati listened to Rossi just as much as they had to Stoner, which is to say not very much. Sure, they made lots of changes, but not the changes which were needed.

Ducati's fortunes were reversed with a change in senior management. Since Gigi Dall'Igna took the place vacated by Filippo Preziosi a year earlier, the factory has gone from strength to strength. Dall'Igna has instituted the organizational changes needed to turn the Ducati from also ran to genuine contender. Dall'Igna listens to his riders, and acts on their input. That's the difference.

Riders don't develop bikes, engineers do. But engineers do a better job at developing bikes when they listen to what their riders have to say. Casey Stoner is definitely a rider worth listening to.


Gathering the background information for long articles such as these is an expensive and time-consuming operation. If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting MotoMatters.com. You can help by either taking out a subscription, buying the beautiful MotoMatters.com 2016 racing calendar, by making a donation, or by contributing via our GoFundMe page.

Total votes: 195
Total votes: 120

Back to top

Comments

I can't find an appropriate word to describe what I am feeling reading Casey Stoner's statement that he has no intention to race. I do not for a minute doubt the sincerity of his statement of intent but it doubly surprises me because he left Honda because they gave him only on test and despite his volunteering to deputise for Pedrosa his offer was not taken up by Honda. In fact, it was that which broke his relationship with Honda. It is very obvious that Casey Stoner wants to ride; ride a MotoGP machine and that too in front of an audience and not in some private test track away from the people. He wants to compete and testing with other riders (not just Ducati riders) and setting times would give him immense satisfaction if he is faster than Rossi, Pedrosa, Lorenzo and Marc Marquez (he has already fired a salvo that Marquez did not allow Honda to give more opportunities to Stoner because he felt insecure).

For all that people say that Casey Stoner loved fishing, hated publicity work and wanted peace and quiet, I believe he left MotoGP in anger. Please don't ask me for reasons, I don't have any. What I am saying is just a hunch hypothesis and the basis of that is that Stoner did not fade away from the MotoGP world. He was very much there with various opinions on various subjects. In fact, the fact that he blamed the CRT class and said it is "sad to see good riders like Randy (De Puniet) going around so slowly disgusts me". I remember that Stoner had once punched De Puniet for looking for a tow and described him as a rider who cannot qualify on his own and so he always looks for tow from fast riders. I cite these instances to say that he went away a very angry man and appeared enough times off the track with comments on various aspects of MotoGP.

If his fascination is only riding than he could jolly well asked Honda or Ducati for one of their machines, paid for it and go riding at Philip Island or Eastern Creek or any of the other circuits that are there in Australia. Casey Stoner wants to ride with others, get some lime light on to himself and feel satisfied. Right now this testing thing is suitable enough to show he is still fast. Whatever be his reason to be a tester like Michelle Pirro, it is clear that Stoner would race if only he did not go on emphasizing that he will never race again. He has got himself into a corner there. But Ducati are not exactly paying him to sit in the garage and wave at cameras as the brand ambassador of Ducati. Being an ambassador for a motorcycle or car company is not like being an ambassador for clothing or watches or such things. I can see Dovizioso or Iannone being guillotined somewhere in the season for non-performance and Casey Stoner most reluctantly would get on to the bike to race. Otherwise who knows one crazy man who is hurting badly would walk up to him and say "so you realised that you have not enough talent to race perhaps".

Total votes: 183

Well, I don't think I completely agree to your reasoning...
To me he seems perfectly happy just doing laps on test days. The reason he wants to go testing while others are there is first and foremost: track conditions. It has been stated over and over, when these bikes go round and round the conditions improve: temperature, debris, rubber laid down, ...
I don't think he necessarily wants to ride in front of an audience, he mostly wants to be away from all these press conferences et al.
He genuinely wanted to substitute for Dani and felt underused by Honda, kudos for him leaving.

Total votes: 160

Stoner is contracted to test.
Dovizioso and Iannone are contracted to race.

I'd be surprised if Dovi signed a contract that he can't enforce, having been there before.

Gigi has already said that if Stoner asked for a wild-card they'd probably accommodate him, but that it's not why they hired him, and it's not in either of their plans. I'd be surprised if he asks.

My own guess of the Honda no-race episode was that Casey wanted to test Honda and find out exactly where he stood with them, after it had become clear he was no longer being used as a test-rider. Once his offer was declined, he knew that someone was blocking him, and I don't doubt he knew who that was, and where it was leading to - time to start seeing what's available.

Total votes: 160

What part of the following is difficult to understand?
" . . years of racing and crashing have left him battered and bruised, the massive crash at Suzuka only making matters worse. . . . he couldn't turn his neck to the left properly to look behind him. He also has a recurrent back problem . . . hospitalized with kidney problems . . "

Total votes: 151

If you stop to think about it in depth, Stoner might very well NOT want to do P.I. for several reasons.

Firstly, if he had any personal nagging consideration that perhaps he's lost the edge he had, I think this test alone ought to have settled that; he's chucked a leg over a bike that had, in the hands of Iannone, proven both itself and Iannane very capable of mixing it up at the very pointy end with everybody at the fastest and recognised top 'rider' circuit of the motoGp season: P.I. last year. Iannone is fast, just not consistent (though his season last year has rocketed him up in the respect stakes). For Stoner to have wrung more out of the particular bike in a directly comparable situation so quickly in the company of a batch of riders all very much race-fit, (remembering he was quickest on the hard tyres even at the end of his second day of test riding) would surely be pretty solid affirmation that he isn't exactly washed-up.

Secondly, Stoner holds a record at P.I. which is the stuff of legend: six wins on the trot. Next best is Rossi with five, and Rossi is not going to be able to best Stoner's record. Nobody else is even in the frame. P.I. has a certain cachet, like the IOM circuit; it's the Wimbledon or Rose Bowl of motoGp racing. If Stoner were to race there again and NOT win, it would be (for his Australian fans at the very least), akin to the sun not rising tomorrow. Sometimes it is best to leave them wanting more... and NOT delivering less, even if that is outside your control.

Thirdly, the media attention should Stoner race at P.I. would be thermonuclear. The chance of him being left alone to have a fun weekend is so much less than zero, it beggars description.

As a small aside: if you go back to the de Puniet incident: firstly, Stoner's 'punch' was little more than a spirited 'wake-up' tap to an armoured part of de Puniet's leathers, and secondly, de Puniet wasn't 'looking for a tow' - he was, by his own admission, switched off and wandering all over the racing line. He crossed over the racing line at slow speed when Stoner was on it at the limit of adhesion, with no escape line. de Puniet not only stated that the 'fault' was his but pleaded with Race Direction to NOT fine Stoner - as a fellow racer, he understood how dangerous what he had done was.

You suggest Stoner left motoGp as 'an angry man'. The things on the track that made Stoner 'angry', are now the subject of Race Direction attention and increasingly severe penalties for those who do what Stoner was campaigning against. The last rider in my memory who received anything like the 'fan' censure for his stand, was Barry Sheene, for stating that the IOM was too dangerous.

Total votes: 153

Totally agree about the punch CS gave to RdP - it was a wake-up tap like you would give your friend for knocking over your pint in the pub.

If you want to see what how an angry Australian punches, re-watch the 2010 PI moto2 race.

Total votes: 136

Stoner left Honda after they wouldn't let him fill in for Pedrosa. If one of the factory, or even non factory Ducati riders were to get injured I'd expect Stoner might ask to fill in again, a wish Ducati would certainly acquiesce to. Not that Stoner is sitting on the sidelines hoping for an injury, but that's the best bet for seeing him race again. Then if he enjoys it well who knows, a full time return could be on the cards.

Total votes: 148

Ducati cannot afford to upset their factory riders?

they upset them with signing Casey. Then they upset them letting Casey ridie in official test. Casey took upseting even further. And finished as fastest Ducati. I am shure that both Andreas are very very upset.

Honda tried not to upset Marc. So they let Stoner go. Ducati rattled the cage. Hard.

Total votes: 156

Maybe Dovizioso is not too happy mainly because the second part of last season was not too good for him and as an athlete/racer when you start having doubts it's difficult to overcome the insecurities when you're being compared to a bright shining star with nothing to lose. On the other hand I think that Stoner presence might boost iannone's fighting spirit: worst case scenario is behind CS in some races it would not be the end of the world. I'm not in their heads but this is my strong feeling.
Another interesting piece of speculation: I read that Lin Jarvis said that Ducati has been courting Lorenzo really hard. if this is true and JL does join Ducati next year I'm not sure he'll get along with Iannone.... just a gut feeling no proof here. And of course they are professionals and work for their employer. One thing for sure: if Stoner wants a shot at racing again he needs to let his wish known asap: with all contracts expiring all the major teams are already making moves to secure the big names.

Total votes: 135

At first, around 24 hours ago, when i read the wednesday roundup. I thought, damn why the heck stoner wouldn't want to race again. It is definitely nice to know you still got it, beat quite a lot of people time with much less training or preparation, also make quite a lot of people scared of your presence. Then just about now, when my objectivity start to overcome my excitement i realized that he wouldn't back as a full time rider. Why? It's just simply too demanding for him. Full time rider means almost 20 races a year, how much energy of travelling and preparation needed, and all that media activity at every race, more importantly is his family especially he looked to be really enjoyed his time with his daughter. So, i doubt he would come back as a full time rider. But a few wildcards won't hurt him :)

Total votes: 139

When Stoner retired, some people said that Honda were paying him, to not sign with another factory, as a test rider. He seemed to enjoy that first year doing it. Fizzled a bit after that. If you were him, Why not be a test rider with benefits ? Why not do Motogp part time lol ? Good ego boost too, surrounded by press, while the factory riders are back at the hotel...

Total votes: 171

Machine's comment sums up my take.
Casey may or may not do a wildcard here,there or anywhere. At this stage of the game it has been left in the air by Gigi for all the right reasons pertaining to Corse's GP effort. Stoner's data collection for the GP16 development using the GP15 is invaluable.
Give the two Andrea's a break. They are sitting in#26&93 land with the new bike.
Redding, Barbera, Petrux, Hernandez and Casey were at Sepang on machinery that already has a proven base to work with.
Sepang 2 will be more interesting and will be a race between Suzuki, Ducati, Honda and Yamaha's engineering staff on display rather than racer's or test riders, based on data collection.
Then of course Michelin.
Anyway, Stoner is the ultimate asset as a test rider for any team and Repsol/HRC under-utilized him last year to their detriment.
I am relishing the thought of Stoner proving to Corse that the winglets are trash, for aesthetic reasons if nothing else.
That is ugly stuff and even Rossi says so in the Yamaha camp.

Total votes: 136

David excellent article as always, just a question regarding rulebook, based on hypothetical situation:

Let's say Stoner does a WC race already at Qatar and wins it ... any chance for Ducati to promote him to "full rider" for the rest of the season?

Total votes: 135

I would love to see him return to racing. The more fast riders, the better, and IMO there is no one faster. I was never the biggest Stoner fan when he was racing in MotoGP (I must admit to rooting for VR46 at the time), but I always respected his immense talent, and it was a pleasure watching him ride.

Total votes: 183

Loving the fact everyone's talking about a former world champs return to ride. Love or hate him, it's a much welcome distraction to the muck that was the end of last season. Really wish he would come back, but I'll settle for him trying to help get another manufacter get to the pointy end. Really hope the Andreas improve on last year and get a win.

Total votes: 140

Stoner is a beautiful rider, esp. his use of the rear brake to manage engine torque and weight distribution (I personally believe that this was at least part of his secret), and his battles with Rossi in 2008 and 2009 especially were terrific. However, I believe him when he says he doesn't want to race - I don't know the guy mind you - and I'll tell you why.

Stoner clearly enjoys racing, and riding the motorcycle. However MotoGP is not just racing and not just riding the motorcycle; it is a year-long grind on-track and off-track. Occasionally participating in an activity and being under contract to always do that activity, on-demand, are two very, very different things. Heck, I like waxing my car every month or so. Three times a day, on-demand? A very different proposition.

Everyone is different, and Stoner doesn't "need" MotoGP the way, say, Rossi needs it. Rossi loves everything about it - for him, it's a pleasure, not a grind. Stoner could do a wild-card, and obviously likes testing - but I doubt he wants to be a contract racer.

In American football you see this all the time, but because there are 2,000 players at any given time you don't notice it as much. Two high-profile examples are Barry Sanders, who quit much like Stoner, with a lot left in the tank, and Jerry Rice, who played twenty seasons and would have played 30 if he could have.

Will Stoner do a race? Sure, it seems possible. Will Stoner return to MotoGP? Highly unlikely.

Total votes: 157

Disappointingly I agree with you. The only reason I see him returning is if he could ride and forego all the external rubbish, which I don't see any team giving him.

Still, we can live in hope he wildcards Phillip Island. I'd be sorely tempted to head across and watch him race.

It's awesome to be on a site where you can read the comments.

Total votes: 115

Casey is still an alien and Dovi won't be back next year. Ducati will put on a full court press to sign an alien during this silly season. And don't fool yourselves into believing it cannot be Vale. With a renewed focus on winning by new Ducati management, and proof by Casey that this bike can work, Rossi may see this as a chance to redeem himself.

Total votes: 163

I'm entirely convinced that Rossi will retire before leaving Yamaha. His 2 years at Ducati showed him he's too close to the end of his career to take any more chances.

Total votes: 136

WHEN Pepsi holds out the cheque with 8 figures on the amount line to Valentino for 2 years of work that he loves to his core, you will see the fastest re-focusing of a rider's career plan in history - followed by the most enthusiasm to ride a Suzuki GP machine since a certain Schwantz swung a lanky leg over a racing motorcycle.

"I like verrie mutz race for factorie teem..."

Total votes: 123

No way his ego could handle getting on a bike that casey Stoner had fixed and would get the credit for fixing.

Back in 2010 Ducati got new hospitality units and trailers etc which included gyms for the riders. In 2011 Rossi wouldn't use the gym because Stoner had used it before him.

Rossi creates his own demons from the other riders, done so thought his career, its how he motivates himself and it worked pretty well for him until Sepang 2015.......

Casey is one of those demons, Rossi wont touch anything Casey has been given credit for.

Total votes: 145

Stoner showed the Ducati could win at the end of 2010 and come Rossi 2011 we all know how that went. Rossi is never going to base bike ability on Stoner's results again. Of that I am pretty certain.

Total votes: 135

Mat once said something to the effect of: the reason test riders are shit is that if you were good enough to race at the highest level, you'd have a top level seat.

Now, pretend you are a factory looking to improve. Who is the most valuable asset you can hire? A champion, who is still fast, and can give feedback.

Who cares if Casey comes back? I want him to, but that speculation is silly right now.

What matters more than anything is Ducati getting their collective act together and fielding a competitive ride with a competitive rider.

I saw somewhere that Ducati want Casey to prove the bike is rideable, which makes landing Lorenzo easier. The knock on the Ducati is that only Casey could ride it fast. He is further proving that point. You could not get two styles more divergent than JL and CS. MM and CS yes, but JL doesn't ride the bike the same way. That was one of the theories about why Ducati wanted Nicky - dirt track background. It's likely why they took Crazy Joe Iannone.

I went searching for the source material for my Mladin quote: http://www.superbikeplanet.com/2014/Nov/141120stonerad.htm

Turns out Dean had the same ideas as I did...maybe I'm not so original after all. :)

Total votes: 138

I'm not convinced Marquez and Stoner have similar riding styles at all. Marquez is spectacular to watch mainly because he seems to over ride the bike. That worked great in his championship years when Honda was the best bike and just recently vacated by Stoner.

Stoner, OTOH, rides the bike he has to its limits. And, a poorly behaving bike like the previous Ducatis, look spectacular at it limit. A great bike like the Honda at its limit looks sublime under Stoner.

Total votes: 147

I read many comments to the effect that MM#93's riding style is similar to CS#27's. I think this is a fallacy based on the appearance of both riding obviously hard. That is where the similarity ends however, I would suggest.

Stoner controls his bike much more from the rear, whereas MM is all about the front end. Overly simple without doubt but a good place to start to point out the huge difference in riding styles.

Total votes: 132

Honda excuse not to let Stoner race was curious at best, now it is clearly unbelievable.
Ok, saying "Stoner might not be up to pace" and hiring Aoyama was a little strange...but now seeing Stoner laptimes on the Ducati the whole thing is absolutely laughable.
I'm not into conspiracy theories, but now I understand why Stoner thought Marquez might have vetoed his return.
I'm glad he's enjoying life (in the paddock) again, he's smiling on every picture, hoping to see him for a couple wildcards.
Honestly not seeing him wildcard at Phillip Island would be a huge letdown for most MotoGP fans.

Total votes: 164

"All riders have rather large egos (a prerequisite for convincing yourself that going round in circles faster than others is in some way important),"maybe was a best wise and hilarious words to describe a human being doing such type of stuff. This sentence could have been written by a psychologist of high knowledge, so congrats for sharing all that analysis.

Total votes: 123

I believe Casey saying he doesn't have an interest in returning to racing. Results from testing could have a slight influence but doubt it to be enough to sway him. For these ego's of such Aliens, to know where you place amongst some of your past rivals after so many years would be one of the greatest 'wonderings' without the pains of full time racing. Casey is a smart man in a prime position.

Casey obviously has a strong desire and feels he has the abilities to provide input that can make a positive difference to a team. He is getting from Ducati what Honda wouldn't accommodate.

Anyone else in the Duc paddock that has an issue with Casey's presence is unfortunately their problem. Do what your employed to do or die.

Early days with teams and riders yet to sort out heads and machines without needing to make too many judgements on who, what, where.

Maybe the talented, likeable, approachable yet to achieve all things capable bloke has yearnings for a higher position! I hope so.

One thing is for certain........I'm absolutely loving the blokes presence!

Total votes: 157

I think being relevant to the Ducati Motogp effort is important to him. That is the problem with most retirements. Losing your sense of relevance... Plus I believe him when he says he wants to dig into each step taken to improve the motorcycle. He wants to truly understand each step and its impact on the racing machine. He said he would have liked to have been an engineer. Come to think of it, he seemed to be pretty engineer-like when he was racing. He even used slightly different lines. Particularly at Indy! This seems to me like a pretty good gig for him. He's got his world titles and he earned them with rare style. Now he wants to help Gigi create a title contending motorcycle for the two Andrea's. Its puts him at another level. A new special challenge. And he gets to have fun doing it.

Total votes: 146

I'm sure that he does look forward to this Ducati development project but considering that he just ran the 8hrs and volunteered to replace for Dani its hard to believe the part where he does not want to race at all. He wants to race but with zero drama, which is unlikely but not impossible. Saying 'Honestly, I'm not racing and I have no plan to' could mean 'plans could change at any time but until I say so leave me alone'. I can't imagine him doing an entire season because of the punishing travel and schedule, but one here and there is not much more effort than testing, especially if he is staying in enough shape for testing. And especially if no other Duc riders take a win.

Chris

Total votes: 146

When he put his hand up for the 8 Hour I was surprised, and my surprise then turned to musing... he won't ever race WSB, and MotoGP seems highly unlikely.

But I reckon he'd enjoy doing a season of the EWC... only four races, and relatively under the radar as far as media/fan attention goes. He could do that easily...

Stoner, Steve Martin, and Chris Vermeulen - an Aussie dream team?

But, Ducati. I wonder whether they'd do EWC? The big twins have never established any sort of solid record in endurance racing, but I'm sure they're up to the job these days.

So he could campaign for another world title, without the dramas, and still fulfil his role as Ducati test rider.

Next time I see Chris Vermeulen in Woolies I'll put it to him : )

Total votes: 128

Stoner did the 8hrs because of its historical significance, and it had been something he'd always wanted to do but couldn't due to his MotoGP commitments.

Total votes: 137

sounds like ducati really know what they are doing now, it's great to have a working partnership like that with stoner

and i think stoner will only be more valuable and knowledgeable as a rider in the long run, whether he races again or not, it's still a very intelligent investment from his standpoint.

you can't say for many GP rider who have extensive testing experience as an "engineer rider" like the way he puts it. he will only get better, and if he ever decide to get back on the saddle, can't even imagine the possibilities

Total votes: 129

My layman's analysis of Sepang (and hence likely completely wrong) is that everyone needs to cut the Ducati factory riders some slack until after Qatar.

The problem I see with a simple analysis of Sepang times, is the Michelin front tyre.

At Valencia, Michelin turned up with a front tyre which had a radically different construction and profile to the Bridgestone, and as we saw, riders were crashing left, right & centre. The riders who appeared not to be as troubled were the factory Yamaha riders on their new chassis, which was targeting the new Michelins.

Between Valencia and Sepang, the factories would have been working on a new chassis, using the Valencia data... although I suspect that Honda may have been more focussed on other problems.

However, at Sepang, Michelin turned up with a front tyre that was much closer in construction and profile to the Bridgestone. One remaining difference between the new Michelin and the Bridgestone (as detailed by Stoner) was raising its head at turn 5.

The factory Yamaha and Suzuki teams both appeared to abandon their 2016 chassis, and go back to their 2015 chassis.

Stoner was riding a GP-15 (obviously with 2015 chassis) but the two Ducati factory riders persevered with the GP-16, perhaps because they had limited options, or perhaps because the engineers needed to confirm the new data.

Either way, it would appear that a 2015 chassis is now a better fit for the new Michelin tyre, and if Michelin now work on eliminating the remaining differences with the Bridgestone, then it's almost certain that the teams will need to produce a chassis that works with what is effectively a hybrid of the Bridgestone front and the grippier Michelin rear.

It's unlikely Ducati will produce a new chassis in the 2 weeks between Sepang and PI, which might also explain the decision not to use Stoner at PI - providing more chassis options for the factory riders to test.

I suspect everyone will need to wait until after the Qatar test before passing judgement on the Andreas, when hopefully Michelin will have locked in their front tyre, and Ducati have provided an appropriate chassis for it.

Total votes: 138

It must be invaluable to have someone who can articulate the feedback in such a precise way. Being fast is great, but less so if you don't how or why you are faster or slower on certain sections of the track. Many people have also said over the years that the guys who become champions are usually the most intelligent ones, raw speed aside, like Rossi nearly last year. If they have both, even better. I remember reading about Kenny Roberts Snr at Suzuka years ago. Apparently, he couldn't find the extra half a second he needed for pole. He got his crew to take him back to the hotel and just lay on his bed thinking, going over the lap in his mind. After a while, he said that he's found it, went back to the track and took pole.

Total votes: 133

If you think back, every time there was speculation about Casey's next move he would categorically deny it. Within weeks he would be doing it.

Total votes: 143

I am making this post for one reason. I have stated several times I have never felt warmth for Stoner as a person, but I have always said that as a motorcycle rider/racer he is a genius without a parallel. People change their opinions frequently and it is possible that having a bit of an adrenaline rush can make Stoner change his stance. I do not understand why some people seem to think that sticking to his original stand is an act of virtue which could get undone if he were to go racing again. He didn't like it then, he might want to try it again. Number of rounds in the championship, travelling, they are not deterrents to a race return. Let me be frank as an admirer of his ability (not a fan) I really want to see him race. It is embarrassing to see him doing the work that Pirro is doing. Really I think he is rightful place is on the race track, on race day and in racing colours. His return will enrich MotoGP and boost its image substantially.

The one thing I like about him is that he is the anti-thesis of Rossi, Lorenzo and Marquez because after a win he calmly returns to parc ferme has a dignified conversation with his crew and just smiles on the podium. This part somehow is better than the celebrations; of Lorenzo especially, planting the Lorenzo land flag. If I can get his mail ID I would even write to him saying with changing circumstances people can change their stand. Absolutely nothing wrong there.

Total votes: 137

People can do whatever they like and they are entitled to change their mind.

Total votes: 155

Stoner will wildcard this season. The question is how many. And w what outcome, and what next.

He wants to, Ducati want him to, DORNA want him to. We want him to.

1-3 wildcards are in the cards.
And nothing next. Thassit. He wants to finish near the front a few times then go fishing.

Total votes: 132

I remember my tire engineer friend describing nuanced vehicle behavior in similar detail. IIRC, it may have been about why the Porsche 993(?) had really narrow front tires. May have been to tune out the twitchy behavior (tune in more understeer) under certain dynamic conditions that was causing a lot of problems for most drivers.

Neither Stoner nor Rossi are confused about what a bike "should" do. Difference with Stoner is he doesn't let his concept of what the bike should be doing get in the way of getting on with what the bike wants to be doing. Fighting the vehicle is the fastest way to go slow.

Total votes: 144

A few years ago I was sitting with my wife on the couch waiting for one of the European rounds to commence. I casually mentioned to my wife that the umbrella girl was Casey's wife, her reply was he'll retire shortly after she has her first child to him. My wife knew more about human nature then almost all of the armchair experts put together.

The wonderful exploration above of the questions so often raised when discussing Stoner really confirmed the assumptions my wife so casually put forward.

As stated above, racing involves crashing, crashing often results in injury, sometimes severe and even life forfeiting (think Marco etc.). Casey's current situation is, he has a beautiful young family, enough money for the rest of his life, but not perfect health. Analgesics commonly used to treat the pain associated with broken bones may also result in kidney inflammation, he has a neck which is restricted in movement and some pretty serious arthritis to look forward to. I think a confrontation with his own mortality and the wish to watch his family grow and flourish outweighs any other appetites he may have. His current MotoGP dalliances are merely scratching his personal need for speed, but its not that important to him in his larger plans.

People talk of Marquez being similar to Casey, and Marquez is a sublime rider, but for me I watch Casey and only one rider is comparable to Casey in style. Unfortunately, he also ended his career far too early for my liking. The great Fast Freddie Spencer! Google a few images of each taking a corner, the shoulder and head position etc. its quite an uncanny similarity.

I selfishly hope Casey returns, but I suspect this is the end of the race for my all time favourite athlete.

Total votes: 151

Most likely I'm wrong but having retired from one profession at a fairly young age, I think maybe I have a slightly different perspective. When you go out, on your own terms at the very top of your profession both in terms of experience and attained knowledge you sometimes feel as though you still have something to contribute to the people the you leave behind. Whether or not that is an actual fact, it is still a feeling you have.

I know I felt that way when I retired. After a 23 year career in aviation, I still felt I had things I could contribute. I submit that Casey likely feels the same way. He has a feel for a motorcycle like few others and the ability to communicate what he feels like even fewer. It's likely why Casey still wants a job as a test rider. I can completely understand wanting to know how and then why a change has a particular effect.

If he can contribute to further success at Ducati, why wouldn't he? I don't think the factory team riders have anything to worry about regarding Casey taking one of their seats.....but they should worry that any claims about the machine or its settings could be easily proved or disproved by a test rider well capable of riding to the absolute limit rather than by one who can merely approach it.

Total votes: 140

In the 'modern' era, manufacturer 'brand heroes' are almost without exception NOT the nationals of the company. The exception I can think of is Agostini for MV Agusta.

For Ducati, three people would be up there as 'heroes': Hailwood, Bayliss, Stoner. Hailwood was, of course, a hero also for Honda and MV Agusta.

For Suzuki: Schwantz and Sheen.

For Yamaha: Heck, just about every other top rider on the planet.

If Stoner sees a path that interests him in tackling the engineering side of a motoGp motorcycle, he follows the paths of at least two damn good Australian riders turned crew-chiefs: Jerry Burgess and Warren Willing. Getting closer to the engineer-side than the 'team' side' is pretty consistent, just maybe a move into the laboratory.

Total votes: 129

... but Foggy probably deserves a mention in that list too.
Love him or loathe him, he won a lot of races and championships and was certainly one of the more prominent reasons the series was so popular in the 90's.

Total votes: 137

Foggy was known as 'The Lion' at the Ducati factory. Perhaps Bayliss unsurped him as the fan favourite through sheer force of personality (and kick-arse riding too, of course) but Fogarty deserves a nod as one of Ducati's true heroes.

Total votes: 145

If you're going to start talking brand heroes, then I'd throw Doohan and Honda in there as well.

Total votes: 121

@David Emmet:
Even though I have a MotoGP membership, I have seen very little footage apart from interviews & technical briefs.
But on one flash I saw Iannone riding behind Stoner... are you aware of any "helping" of CS towards the factory Duc riders? Knowing CS was never too big a fan of people getting a tow :)

Total votes: 137

These top flight riders are not confused about what the optimal line should be. The problem is sensitivity. Stoner even said the other riders may not have the same feelings/sensations that he has.

And, even if they have the sensations, do they know how to react to it so as to go fast? Think of it this way, Ben Spies' career was ended because what he was feeling and what the Duc was telling him was completely skewed.

Hopefully for Ducati, Gigi will take what Stoner's telling them and make the bike better for the mortals, rather than as before when Stoner was riding around the problems, they thought they were doing a great job.

One last analogy, when Michael Schumacher's teammates were also fast, the car was good. When only Schumacher was fast, it was probably all him working around the problems while his teammate wasn't sure how to find the reverse gear. Stoner's job is to help Ducati develop a bike such that the two Andreas are capable of finding the same limits as Stoner.

Total votes: 135

Not only is the original article an excellent read but there are a lot of great comments above, thank you all.

Perhaps these two can work together at a level that has not been seen before. An alien working directly, not with a crew chief, but a genuine engineer. After reading what Dall'Igna had to say about Stoner and the Sepang test, that is what I believe. Stoner sees in this engineer something that he has not seen before. An impression so strong that Stoner expressed a genuine interest in the engineering involved. And reading between the lines, Dalligna's feedback also seemed very positive and gave the impression that he sees in Casey the chance to implement a more accelerated test and development schedule. Mind you, it is difficult to assess accurately with just printed interviews, to gauge enthusiasm one really needs to see the body language.

We fans tend to focus on the loss/waste of on alien that is no longer on the grid but for Dall'Igna & Stoner they may see an opportunity for success for all of the team and the factory.

Total votes: 130

"Stoner is contracted to test.
Dovizioso and Iannone are contracted to race".

The lines above are part of a post by XCOM. I really don't think that you are unaware of "clauses in contracts". There are "performance" related clauses and other conditional clauses which facilitate the breaking of the contract. Miller was contracted to the Marc VDS team to ride in Moto2 but he went to ride for Honda on an extra motorcycle given to team LCR, since Miller is directly contracted to HRC. Contracts I suppose do have their use but they are not always binding. Kawasaki quit MotoGP breaking a contract with Dorna and after protracted negotiations made a team of mechanics for one motorcycle with no development at all over the full season and the motorcycle was not even called Kawasaki, it was called Hayate.

js90 - Michael Schumacher's teammates were never as fast he was. In 1994 while at Benetton Michael Schumacher beat drivers and teams using Renault V10s and Ferrari V12 (that was the last season where people could use as many cylinders as they like and active suspension was allowed) driving a Zetec Ford V8. Neither JJ Lehto or Jos Verstappen who stood in a for an injured Lehto finished anywhere near the front. Even after the cunning Flavio Briatore bought the team Ligier to get access to the all conquering Renault engine in 1995 (apart from Williams, Ligier had access to the Renault engine for an all "French" team) and rebranded the team as Benetton and this was in 1995, his teammate was Johnny Herbert who did manage some podiums but he was the exception rather than the rule. At Ferrari when Schumacher was taking the car to third and fourth places, his teammate Eddie Irvine was finishing outside the points positions. Luca De Montezemolo famously said the potential of the Ferrari was more indicated by Eddie Irvine's position rather than Schumacher's.

So no Sir, it is not necessary that when one rider/driver is good then the other also benefits. The best example is Valentino Rossi and Jeremy Burgess who said that Jorge Lorenzo was benefitting from the data that was being generated when Rossi and Burgess were improving the Yamaha's performance. Lorenzo finished as MotoGP champion while Rossi was in the wilderness on a Ducati. Ben Spies who was blighted by bad injuries and sometimes bad engineering from Yamaha was not in a position to provide a clear picture of how good he was vis a vis Lorenzo. But he did win one GP at Assen (I am not sure) and Rossi returned to Yamaha to play second fiddle to Lorenzo for two years but eventually caught up with him and led Lorenzo on points till the end and screwed himself up royally with the now famous Marc Marquez story.

In my considered opinion the idea that a good rider is also a good developer of a racing motorcycle or car is flawed. When Ducati was competitive in the hands of Sete Gibernau the development rider was Niccolo Canepa. Yamaha's development rider was Nakasuga (one of many) and Suzuki's development rider was Nobuatsu Aoki a good rider but not a winner and Kawasaki's was Akira Yanagawa. If racers are to be good developers why do companies have development riders? I understand that a certain amount of input from the rider can make a difference in small increments but I don't think it can turn Aesop's donkey into an Arabian Stallion. This whole development thing therefore is overrated.

And yet again I emphasize Stoner needs to race and there is indirect support to this statement of mine in an interview with Stoner on Autosport where claimed if he wanted to just ride a motorcycle he could buy one and ride it anywhere. Was that an inadvertent give away. Stoner will race. The no I won't race and the development thing is to give him an idea of where he is. If he is fast and fit he will race if not this year definitely next year.

Total votes: 125