Having a test rider who can put in a competitive lap time is important to factories when they are developing their bikes. Having a world champion who can match the pace of the fastest men on the planet is sheer luxury. Two factories find themselves in this situation, with vastly different purposes and outcome. Nicky Hayden and Casey Stoner are testing radically different bikes on nearly opposite sides of the planet, to help their respective (former) employers.
Nicky Hayden has been testing Ducati's Panigale 1199R World Superbike machine at Mugello on Wednesday, the American both providing development input on the troublesome machine, as well as using it as an opportunity to test the WSBK waters and decide whether he wishes to switch from MotoGP. Ducati are keen to retain the services of the American, and are reported to have offered him a very generous offer to race the Panigale in World Superbikes with the Alstare Ducati team. Ducati need a rider who is fast, diligent and can put in the effort to help move the Panigale project forward.
HRC issued another press release, after the second day of testing with Casey Stoner at Motegi. On Wednesday, Stoner spent most of the day riding the 2014 version of Honda's RC213V MotoGP machine. He reiterated his assertion that he will not race this year as a wild card. Photos from the test are available on the Repsol Media website. The press release appears below:
Stoner completes full test day as weather improves in Motegi
After a frustrating first day yesterday, where Casey Stoner only managed six full laps due to bad weather, the second day of testing has been very productive. He completed 47 laps and was able to fulfil the test programme scheduled by HRC and execute all of the tasks that had been planned.
This morning, Casey tested a few small items on the 2013 RC213V and continued into the afternoon before switching onto the 2014 machine, the same as Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez tested in Aragon.
Casey Stoner 47 laps
Below is the official press release from the Repsol Honda Team after the first rain-limited day of testing for Casey Stoner. The weather forecast for Motegi on Wednesday is better, meaning that Stoner should be able to do more laps than on Tuesday. Official photos from the test can be found here: http://repsolmedia.com/en/photo-archive-2013/item/21714-test-motogp-japon
Weather impedes Stoner's return on MotoGP machine
Double World Champion, Casey Stoner, climbed aboard a MotoGP machine for the first time today since retiring from the sport in November 2012. However, Bad weather affected his return and the Honda development test at the Twin Ring Motegi in Tochigi, Japan.
The original plan was for Casey to re-familiarise himself with the RC213V - 2013 machine, in the morning and then test the new 2014 prototype in the afternoon and a few other test items. Unfortunately, after just 6 laps the rain arrived and halted testing for the day.
With MotoGP's summer break halfway done, testing resumes later this week for some of the top names in the sport. Current and former champions take to the track at Brno and Motegi, with Yamaha, Honda and Suzuki all testing a range of material.
The most relevant test for this year's championship will be held at Brno, where Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi will be testing the factory M1s. Lorenzo's aim will be to test his collarbone, while Rossi continues to work on set up, chasing minor improvements to the major step forward made during the Aragon test. The Yamaha pair will also hope to be testing Yamaha's seamless gearbox at the two-day test, the first time that the factory riders will get to try out the new seamless transmission. So far, it has only been tested by Yamaha's test riders in Japan, working on reliability. Whether the Brno test means that the seamless gearbox will be ready for use later this season remains to be seen.
Honda today issued a press release confirming the news yesterday that Casey Stoner is to test Honda's 2014 MotoGP machines. He will do a total of four tests at Motegi, riding both the 2014 Honda RC213V and the production racer version of the bike, to be sold to private teams. Stoner is stepping in to take the place of Honda's official test rider Kousuke Akiyoshi, who broke his thigh and suffered a bruised lung in a crash in the Japanese Superbike championship at the end of June. The press release rules out any wild card rides this season.
The HRC press release appears below:
Casey Stoner to test for HRC
Casey Stoner will climb back on a Honda RC213V, for the first time since Valencia 2012, as a test rider for Honda Racing Corporation. The two-time World Champion left the sport at the end of last year and has been linked with rumours of a wild card appearance this season but this is now out of the question. The Australian rider will do four tests in Motegi in the next few months with Honda Racing's R&D team, working on the evolution of the RC213V and also on the new production racer bike that Honda Racing will sell to selected team next year to race in MotoGP.
Motorcycle News are reporting that Casey Stoner is to test Honda's 2014 RC213V at Motegi in August. The former two-time World Champion will ride both next year's factory machine, as well as the production racer version which Honda are preparing to sell to private teams, and which Scott Redding has been linked with riding at Gresini next season.
HRC have flatly denied that the test is a prelude to a MotoGP return for the Australian, according to MCN. Stoner will not race as a wildcard in either Phillip Island or Motegi, as early rumors have suggested. According to MCN's Matthew Birt on Twitter, Casey Stoner is "still 100% happy with his decision to retire."
Casey Stoner has quashed rumors that he could make a return to MotoGP. In an interview with the British magazine Autosport, he says he will not come back to Grand Prix racing while it continues in the direction it is heading in. "I'm closed. I'm done with it," Stoner told Autosport.
There have been persistent rumors that Stoner could come back for a couple of wildcards at the end of the season, though the Australian has denied he would be interested in coming in as a wildcard. More outlandish rumors surfaced a month ago, claiming that Stoner was close to making a shock return to Ducati, and that the Italian company's new German ownership had offered him a large sum to race again. But Stoner told Autosport that there was no truth in either of those rumors, and he had absolutely no interest in a return to MotoGP at the moment.
With the 2013 MotoGP season due to start in just four weeks' time, it's time to take a trip down memory lane and get ourselves excited about this season's racing. To do so, over the next few weeks, we will be running an occasional series of shots by MotoMatters.com star shooter Scott Jones, taken at some of the rounds he attended last season. His stunning photos are a reminder of why we love motorcycle racing so much. Remember also to check out the special offers Scott has on signed photos, including riders such as Casey Stoner, Cal Crutchlow and Nicky Hayden. Not long to go now...
Wherever racing paddocks assemble, rumors accumulate. The latest piece of gossip to hit the racing grapevine concerns Casey Stoner, and is emerging from the paddock he has just entered - the Australian V8 Supercars series - and revolves and the paddock he has just left, MotoGP. According to the V8 gossip*, Casey Stoner is to wildcard in at least two MotoGP races in the 2013 season, aboard a Honda RC213V.
The paddock gossip was picked up by the Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport, who contacted Repsol Honda team principal Livio Suppo for confirmation. Suppo denied any knowledge of such an agreement, though he did state that Stoner would be more than welcome to race as a wildcard for Honda, should he wish to do so.
The rumors do not exist only in the V8 Supercar paddock. The rumors are also doing the rounds among those with connections to Honda in the MotoGP paddock as well. Anonymous sources suggest that Stoner has been signed to do all three flyaway races - Sepang, Phillip Island, and Motegi - as well as private testing for HRC.
With Casey Stoner preparing to take the next step in his sporting career - the long-expected switch to racing in the Australian V8 Supercars series - the two-time MotoGP champion is facing increasing scrutiny over the exact timing of his future plans. An announcement is expected soon confirming that Stoner will be racing in the Dunlop V8 Supercar Series, the support class to the main series, with Triple Eight racing and full Red Bull backing. On Sunday, the Australian newspaper the Sunday Mail reported that Stoner had already signed to race in the series, a report which Stoner immediately denied on his Twitter feed.
The Sunday Mail story draws at length from an interview to be published in the official program for the Clipsal 500 Adelaide race to be held in March. In the cited interview, Stoner also repeated that he had no intention to return to motorcycle racing at any point, despite the extremely generous offers he had received to keep him there. "I've got no thoughts whatsoever at this time of ever even thinking of coming back to grand prix racing,'' the Sunday Mail quotes Stoner as saying.
With the kickoff to the 2013 season growing ever closer, those involved in motorcycle racing are starting to look back at 2012 and look ahead to 2013. After yesterday's review from Bridgestone, Honda are the next organization to issue a press release interview with a senior management figure. The press release interview with HRC Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto makes for fascinating reading, providing an insight into the 2012 season and expectations of 2013.
The interview covers the preparations for the switch to 1000cc, and the confidence with which HRC went into the new era. However, Honda soon ran into trouble, with the increase in the minimum weight added in December 2011, and the revised construction of Bridgestone tires supplied for the 2012 season, both the softer rear tire and the revised front tire (for additional detail into why the weight increase was announced so late, see the editor's note below the interview). Nakamoto provides some interesting details on how HRC dealt with the extra weight and the revised tires, revealing that it cost them half a season to solve the problems they had created. The HRC boss also explains why he believes that having multiple tire manufacturers is a better solution for all involved, creating more competition and allowing multiple solutions for different bikes. Nakamoto states that he believes this is one of the reasons why MotoGP racing has become so predictable.
Nakamoto also has very high praise for both Casey Stoner and Marc Marquez, the man brought in to replace him. His compliments on Marquez approach and talent are telling, Nakamoto revealing that at the HRC test in Sepang, Marquez was already lapping at the same pace that Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner were running. Nakamoto also provides insight into why he will miss Casey Stoner, and exactly how important the Australian was to Honda's racing program. Nakamoto rates Stoner above any other rider in the MotoGP paddock.
There is no rivalry in MotoGP more bitter than that between Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner, more bitter even than the one between Wayne Rainey and Kevin Schwantz. It has been a constant element in their relationship since Stoner won his first MotoGP title in 2007 (ironically, Stoner named Rossi as one of his heroes on the t-shirt he wore to celebrate that championship), though hardly a surprise, as the two men are polar opposites in almost every respect, except for their prodigious talent. The rivalry has intensified over the years, stoked by a series of incidents (nicely outlined by the peerless Italian website GPOne.com recently), including the booing of Stoner by Rossi fans at Donington in 2008, the epic battle at Laguna Seca in 2008, and the war of words between the two in 2010, ahead of Rossi's move to Ducati.
The rivalry does not just polarize the two riders, it also polarizes their fans. The comments section of almost any news story featuring the two men is riddled with posts by people blinded by fanaticism, with logic and calm consideration nowhere to be found. This polarization leaves the media with a dilemma: on the one hand, events concerning the two, and verbal exchanges between them need to be treated as newsworthy, and due consideration given to covering them as such. On the other hand, the media operate in the certain knowledge that covering the dispute is sure to sell more newspapers and magazines, generate more traffic to a website, and grab more viewers for a TV show. Reporting on these stories leaves journalists open to charges of sensationalism, but not reporting on them means they can be accused of not doing their jobs.
What does it take to be a world champion? A little bit of luck, certainly. A whole heap of talent, for sure. But above all, it takes preparation: physical, mental and mechanical. That, most of all, is the lesson of Jorge Lorenzo's 2012 MotoGP championship. The 2010 champion came better prepared to the title chase, and ground down his opponents with his sheer consistency.
Lorenzo's assault on the 2012 championship started in Yamaha's racing department in 2011. The new 1000cc M1 may have been visually almost identical to the 800cc 2011 machine, but beneath the similarities was a very different machine. Yamaha's engineers had made the bike longer to cope with the extra torque and horsepower, and completely redesigned the engine to cope with the new rules. Modified electronics improved traction, while better wheelie control meant the bike lost less time in acceleration. The improved wheelie control alone cut a tenth of a second from the lap time.
It was obvious to Lorenzo that the 2012 bike would be competitive as soon as he rode it for the first time during the post-race test at Brno in August 2011. Where on the 800cc bike, he had been nearly half a second slower than Casey Stoner during Sunday's race, the day after, on the 1000cc M1, he was immediately within a tenth of the Australian on the Repsol Honda. Yamaha had done their homework, and Lorenzo knew that the rest was down to him.
2012 Valencia MotoGP Post-Race Round Up: On Marquez' Talent, Pedrosa's Gamble, Lorenzo's Crash, And A Debt Left Open
So the 2012 MotoGP season is over, and someone with a great deal of courage and a little bit of money to wager could have ended the year rich beyond their wildest dreams. If you could have found someone to take your bet seriously, you would have got a very, very good return on one race being won from the back of the grid, and the other from a rider starting from pit lane. Just one of those events is highly unusual, having both of the happen on the same day is unheard of.
The odds on Marc Marquez winning from the back of the grid were probably disappointingly short. By now, every bookmaker in the world will have seen the onboard clip of Marc Marquez after stalling his bike on the grid at Motegi, and the way he disposed of twenty Moto2 competitors in the space of half a lap. The first lap at Valencia is likely to create as much of a sensation - or at least it would, if Dorna would either resist the temptation to take down Youtube videos before they go viral to keep their TV rights holders happy, or make the videos available free of charge on the MotoGP.com website so that they can go viral while retaining control - as Marquez passed another twenty riders in the space of five corners.