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Motor Sport Magazine's Hall Of Fame: Vote For The Greatest Motorcycle Racers To Be Inducted

The debate over who is the greatest racer of all time is one that rages on endlessly, with arguments being made for Giacomo Agostini and Valentino Rossi as the two most successful riders, while others argue that it should be Freddie Spencer for winning in two categories at the same time in the modern era, or Casey Stoner for winning on the Ducati, a bike no one else could, or Mick Doohan, for dominating the class as no one has done since.

Instead of discussing which one rider is the greatest, the respected British publication Motor Sport Magazine has set up their own Hall of Fame, to honor many of the great legends of racing. As Motor Sport Magazine is primarily focused on four-wheeled sport, the Hall of Fame is currently filled mostly with the luminaries of Formula One, such as Jackie Stewart, Colin Chapman, Michael Schumacher and Niki Lauda, along with a few of the greats from other branches of car racing, such as Colin McRae and Mario Andretti.

This year, the focus is on motorcycle racing, however. In recent weeks, MotoMatters.com contributor Mat Oxley has made the case in his blog for riders such as Geoff Duke, Barry Sheene, Wayne Rainey and Eddie Lawson to join the trio of motorcycle racers already in Motor Sport Magazine's Hall of Fame. Those three – Giacomo Agostini, John McGuinness and John Surtees – need no explanation of their place in the Hall of Fame.

This year, more motorcycle racers are due to be inducted, and you can vote on who you think should join them. The list of candidates contains all of the legends of the sport you might expect, and more. The choices are: the greats from the early period of Grand Prix racing, Geoff Duke and Mike Hailwood; Grand Prix racing's first superstar Barry Sheene; Kenny Roberts, the man who revolutionized 500cc two stroke racing, and knocked Sheene off his perch; Freddie Spencer, the rider who in turn displaced Roberts, and is perhaps the most naturally talented racer ever to swing a leg over a racing motorcycle; the greats of the Golden Era, Eddie Lawson, Wayne Rainey, Mick Doohan, Kevin Schwantz; Valentino Rossi, widely regarded by many fans as the greatest racer of all time; Casey Stoner, the man who beat Rossi, and gave Ducati their first ever MotoGP title; and Joey Dunlop, a man who can rightly claim to be the greatest roads racer of all time, and still has a special place in the hearts of many racers around the world.

To hear a thoughtful and considered opinion on the names on the list, you can listen to the special episode of the Motor Sport Magazine Podcast, featuring Mat Oxley and former Grand Prix racer Jeremy McWilliams. Once you've heard what they have had to say, you can vote for the riders you believe deserve to be in the Hall of Fame here. Given their status and their ability, the only shame is that you cannot vote for them all.

Michelin Schedules Extra December Tests To Prepare For 2016

Michelin is stepping up preparations for 2016 by scheduling an extra tire test in December. The French tire maker has invited the MotoGP factories to spend two days at Jerez before Christmas, testing new front tires in cold conditions, according to GPOne.com.

Three manufacturers have accepted, Ducati, Honda and Aprilia preparing to send their test riders to put in some laps on the latest iteration of tires at the Spanish circuit on 21st and 22nd of December. As the test falls in the middle of the winter test ban period, contracted riders - that is, riders who will be permanent MotoGP entries for 2016 - are forbidden from riding, and only the official test riders can take part. As a result, Michele Pirro will be attending for Ducati, Mike Di Meglio for Aprilia, and Honda will send both Hiroshi Aoyama and Takumi Takahashi.

The main objective of the test is to try out new tires in cold conditions, the situation in which the Michelins are struggling most at the moment. Michelin are keen to collect as much data as possible ahead of the winter break, in order to have tires ready to test at Sepang, and more importantly, at Qatar, where track and ambient temperatures are always relatively low due to it being a night race.

Michelin's biggest problem at the moment is that the riders, used to the relatively forgiving Bridgestone front, are finding it hard to understand where the limit of the front tire is. That has led to a spate of crashes in both private and public testing so far, with nobody immune from the front end lowsides. The data Michelin hopes to collect at Jerez will be used to try to improve that issue. It will also be useful for the factories to gain a better understanding of how the front Michelin works, and work towards a weight distribution and bike set up better able to produce feedback from the front tire.

Testing with the contracted riders resumes again at Sepang, on 1st February.

Casey Stoner - Private Tests Only For The Foreseeable Future

Casey Stoner will not be making any public appearances on the Ducati Desmosedici any time soon. Although the Australian has been formally announced as test rider for Ducati, he will not be riding at the official tests at Sepang at the beginning of February.

Speaking to Italian website GPOne.com, Ducati MotoGP boss Davide Tardozzi said "There are still some details to arrange, but for sure, Stoner will do his first test in Malaysia, before the first official test." Stoner will test alongside Ducati's long-time official test rider Michele Pirro, where he will give the Desmosedici GP16 its first run out. The Australian did the same thing at the beginning of 2015 for Honda, testing the RC213V ahead of the official test in early February.

The most important thing for Ducati was not that Stoner should be fast from the off, but that he should get used to the feel of the bike, and work his way towards being as fast as possible. "We don't want to force him too soon," Tardozzi told GPOne, "but when you can push at the limit as we know he can, his feedback will be very important to us. We are organizing a few tests with him so that he can understand the bike and get his confidence back."

Stoner is likely to be in Italy some time soon, however. Ducati are trying to arrange for him to visit the factory in Bologna, so that they can measure him up for a bike, and figure out where the footrests, seat, handlebars and tank need to be. Getting the seating position and dimensions right on the new bike is crucial, but Stoner also has a few more details of the contract to finalize. All of this is likely to be finalized before Christmas, Stoner still having a house in Switzerland, and possibly combining a skiing vacation with a trip to Bologna.

What Stoner's program will be after Sepang is unknown. Ducati are likely to have private tests for the test team at Jerez and Mugello, and the test team will likely be active ahead of the official tests at Phillip Island in the middle of February and at Qatar in early March. There is still no word on whether Stoner will do any wild cards, but if he does, the Phillip Island round is the most likely place for that to happen.

Suter Officially Withdraws From Moto2 - Three Chassis Manufacturers Remain

Suter will not be competing in the Moto2 championship in 2016. In an official statement on their Facebook page, the Swiss engineering firm announced they would not be applying for a constructor's license for Moto2 in 2016, and concentrating their efforts on working with Mahindra on their Moto3 machine, and supplying a range of parts for various teams and factories in the series.

The withdrawal from Moto2 was an inevitable consequence of the steady decline in the number of bikes Suter was producing for the class. After winning the first three manufacturer's championships, from 2010 to 2012, teams started switching en masse to Kalex. The rider's championship with Marc Marquez and manufacturer's title in 2012 was the high point of their stay in Moto2, but by then, the exodus was already underway. Despite some solid performances in 2014, in the hands of Tom Luthi, Dominique Aegerter and Johann Zarco, just two Suters lined up on the grid at Qatar in 2015.

For 2016, only two teams had chosen to race a Suter, making a grand total of three bikes. Both teams would be fielding rookies: Ioda Racing had signed Efren Vazquez, and AGP had former Moto3 rider Remy Gardner, in his second year in Grand Prix racing, and newcomer Federico Fuligni. Without an experienced rider to guide development, and with no top level rider capable of immediately challenging for podiums and wins, it made no commercial sense for Suter to continue. The costs involved in developing and racing a Moto2 bike would never be recovered through sales in the Moto2 class and to other championships. How Ioda and AGP will replace the Suters is unknown at present.

The loss of Suter is in part down to performance, but much more a sign of the incredible conservatism which reigns in Grand Prix paddocks. Teams see other teams winning, and try to copy their success by choosing the same equipment. Riders struggling with results point to more successful riders, and tell their teams, "give me the same bike as him, and I will beat him". Using the same chassis, suspension, brakes as other teams eliminates one possible variable from the equation, leaving teams and riders free in their minds to concentrate on getting the best out of the equipment.

This conservatism has led to the Moto2 class becoming a virtually entirely spec class. In 2010, in the first year of the class after it replaced the 250s, there were fourteen manufacturers who entered and scored points. The following year, that was down to just seven (or eight, if you count the Pons Kalex as a different bike to the Kalex). By 2013, that number was down to five, and then four the following year. For 2016, just Kalex, Speed Up and Tech 3 remain, with 26 of the entries being Kalexes. Just how Moto2 is to become a more diverse environment again is a mystery.

The statement from the Suter Facebook page appears below:


OFFICIAL STATEMENT SUTER RACING 

With immediate effect, Suter Racing ends its involvement in the Moto2 GP class and will not apply for next year’s MotoGP constructor’s license. As no teams with winning riders are available to show the huge potential of our fully developed 2016 machine, Suter ends its commitment for now, having won 3 constructors titles and in 2012 also the riders championship with Marc Márquez. At the moment, our racing department is fully committed to engineering mandates for bigger motorcycle manufacturers in the Moto3 and MotoGP class. But of course we will develop and produce also in future our own brand of racing motorcycles. The planning for a new motorsport program is already well underway. 

The Ideal Winter Break? Barcelona Superprestigio Set For 12th December Again

The Barcelona Superprestigio race is becoming a regular fixture in the winter break, and this year is no exception. The third edition of the race is due to take place on 12th December in the Palau Sant Jordi, part of Barcelona's Olympic Ring up on the Montjuic hill which sits on southwest edge of Barcelona. Once again, the feature will pit some of the best MotoGP riders in the world against the cream of the US flat track scene, as well as top riders from many other motorcycling disciplines.

Star of the show is once again Marc Marquez, the man who helped organize the show after hearing about previous editions of the race which had been run in the 1980s and 1990s. Marquez lost out in the first edition of the race to Brad Baker, then beat Jared Mees to win the second edition in December of last year. Both Mees and Baker will be present again, representing the AMA Flat Track series. 

A host of other stars of MotoGP and World Superbikes will be joining Marquez. Moto2 rookie of the year Alex Rins will also be racing this year, as will his former teammate and Marc's younger brother Alex Marquez. Bright young Italian star Lorenzo Baldassarri will also be taking part: as part of the VR46 Rider Academy, Baldassarri has a lot of experience riding dirt track on Valentino Rossi's dirt track ranch in Tavullia. Moto2 race winner Xavier Simeon will be representing Belgium, while former Moto2 rider and now KTM test rider Mika Kallio will be racing in Barcelona as well. Jordi Torres will be representing the World Superbike series, along with Nico Terol and Toni Elias, though rumor has it Elias could be bound for BSB.

Brad Baker and Jared Mees top the Open Class - for riders from flat track and other off-road disciplines - line up, and they are joined by riders from a wide variety of off-road sports. Speedway and Long Track racer Joonas Kylmäkorpi is the second Finnish racer in the line up, while speedway star Fredrik Lindgren will be representing Sweden. From Supermoto, Tom Chareyre makes a return, and the British and Spanish dirt track series have a strong representation. British champion Aidan Collins is joined by runner up Oliver Brindley, and third-place man Alan Birtwistle. Italian dirt track champion Francesco Cecchini makes a return, whil Franc Serra, Ferran Cardus and Jaume Gaya are just a few of a strong local representation. 

Practice starts on Saturday, 12th December at 11am. Doors open to the public at 4:30pm, with the event getting underway at 6pm. Racing starts half an hour later, and culminates with the Superfinal, which sees the best riders from both the road racing group and the off road group go head to head for the championship. That race is due to start shortly after 9pm. MotoMatters.com will once again be attending the event, and providing coverage on the website. Tickets for the event start at €30, and can be bought online at the RPM Ticketing website

Flights and accommodation in Barcelona are very reasonable, it being the off season. But most of Barcelona's many attractions, such as the Sagrada Familia, are still open, and much easier to visit as the crowds are much thinner. The shops are busy, of course, with Christmas shopping in full swing, though not quite as busy as in Northern Europe, the tradition in Spain being to exchange gifts on Twelfth Night, linking the gift giving tradition to the arrival of the Magi, rather than the arrival of Santa Claus or Saint Nicholas.

Milwaukee Take BSB Champion Josh Brookes To World Superbikes With BMW

The World Superbike championship promises to bring new excitement for 2016. New bikes, and above all, new riders are adding an international flavor and much more interest to the series. WSBK had already gained a top-flight American rider, with Nicky Hayden joining the Ten Kate Honda team, but now they have a top Australian rider as well.

Today, the Milwaukee team run by Shaun Muir announced they will be making the switch from the BSB championship to World Superbikes, taking reigning BSB champion Josh Brookes along with them. Brookes had been angling for a ride in WSBK for a couple of seasons now, but with the Milwaukee team moving up, the choice was made very simple. Brookes was very impressive throughout his 2015 BSB campaign, lifting the title by a comfortable margin, despite the tortuous Showdown process used by BSB to settle the title.

Brookes will be joined by Karel Abraham, the Czech rider leaving the MotoGP paddock now that the AB Racing team have withdrawn from the premier class. Abraham is a Moto2 race winner, and spent the last five years riding a motley assembly of machinery in MotoGP.

The biggest change for the Milwaukee squad is a change of equipment. The team won its BSB title on board Yamaha's new R1, Brookes proving the bike could be competitive right from the off. When Yamaha announced they would be returning to World Superbikes in an official capacity, Shaun Muir's Milwaukee squad were in the frame to run the team for a long time, losing out in the end to the Crescent Racing outfit who had until then been running Suzukis. That occasioned a switch to BMW, Milwaukee running with strong support from the German manufacturer in 2016. That the BMW S1000RR should be competitive next year was demonstrated at the test last week at Jerez, where the Althea BMW team posted fast times with Markus Reiterberger and Jordi Torres.

BMW's involvement in both the Milwaukee and Althea squads offers an interesting insight into their approach to racing. Although they announced that they were withdrawing from WSBK as a factory effort at the end of 2013, they have been very closely involved with private teams ever since. Milwaukee will receive support with engines and electronics from BMW, with the German manufacturer supplying personnel to help the team get the best out of the bikes. This approach has allowed BMW to achieve some level of success in the past at a much reduced cost, and with a much lower risk for the brand. With the Althea and Milwaukee teams, BMW have a strong chance of garnering success from World Superbikes without much risk.

Below is the press release from the Milwaukee BMW team:


Brookes and Abraham join Milwaukee BMW in World Superbikes for 2016

Reigning British Superbike Champion Josh Brookes and former MotoGP star Karel Abraham will take to the World Superbike grid next season as team-mates in the new Milwaukee BMW team.

Both Brookes and Abraham will ride BMW S 1000 RRs built by Shaun Muir Racing and backed by Milwaukee Power Tools after a three-year extension to their title partnership deal was agreed.

BMW Motorrad Motorsport will provide support and technical know-how, and its experts will work alongside the team throughout the whole season, along with engines and electronics. The team will be responsible for the development of the bike during the season, and manage the sporting and logistical aspects of its participation in the series.

Australian Brookes last raced in World Superbikes nine years ago and is looking forward to going back on to the global stage to race against the best Superbike riders on the planet.

“I’m excited to be back in World Superbikes and to go there with the same team I won the BSB title with is perfect. I haven’t raced a BMW before but the bike and factory are proven, and I am certain it will be competitive,” said Brookes.

“Having the support of BMW Motorrad Motorsport is crucial to our efforts and having their experts on site with us will be a big help. We will test early in January before heading to Phillip Island and I am looking forward to riding in front of my home fans.”

Czech Republic rider Abraham spent the last five years in MotoGP, scoring points regularly, but sees WSBK as the next stage in his career.

“Moving to World Superbikes with a team like Milwaukee BMW is hugely exciting. It will also be a challenge as I haven’t ridden a Superbike and a lot of the tracks will be new but I am sure that we will be able to get up to speed quickly,” said Abraham.

Team principal Shaun Muir concluded: “As a team, the support and enthusiasm shown by BMW Motorrad Motorsport was hugely confidence-building. They know exactly what we need to be competitive and the level of backing has made our decision to join them much easier.

“I am incredibly impressed with the amount of technical support we will have and it bodes well for a great debut season in World Superbikes.”

KTM 270hp RC16 MotoGP Bike Completes First Test At Valencia

After its earlier roll out in Austria, KTM has completed its first proper test with the RC16 MotoGP bike at Valencia. On Saturday and Sunday, test riders Alex Hofmann and Mika Kallio put the RC16 through its paces on the Spanish track. 

The test sees KTM stepping up the pace of development on the bike. Alex Hofmann has been used as a development rider, to verify the bike is working correctly and is being developed in the right direction. New hire Mika Kallio has been brought in as the performance rider, the 33-year-old Finn freshly retired as a full-time racer, and therefore having the speed to push the limits of the bike. Kallio also has more recent experience of MotoGP machines, having ridden for Pramac Ducati in 2010, and having tested the Suter CRT MotoGP machine in 2012. Kallio was known in his former teams for his attention to detail and ability to pinpoint areas that needed improvement.

In a press release (shown below), Mike Leitner, the man leading the MotoGP project, pronounced himself very happy with the progress of the bike. KTM are working towards preparing the bike for a full-time return to the class in 2017, though KTM CEO Stefan Pierer recently told German-language publication Speedweek that they intended to contest the last race of 2016 at Valencia.

The interview with Pierer contained a number of interesting details. It was already well-known that KTM would be using a 90° V4 engine housed in a steel trellis frame, but Pierer revealed that their engine is already making around 270 horsepower. The bike is using a seamless gearbox, developed in conjunction with X-Trac. Though KTM have already asked Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta for a wild card entry at Valencia, they could enter earlier, should the bike be ready.

The key to success for KTM's project will be the ability to hire a competitive rider for 2017. That will require them to show fast times during testing. No times were released from the Valencia test, and as the project is still at such an early stage, there is still a lot of testing left to do. But with everyone out of a contract at the end of 2016, KTM need to be able to demonstrate that their bike could be competitive as early as possible.

The official press release from the test appears below:


FIRST TEST WITH KTM RC16 MOTOGP BIKE IN VALENCIA

Just four weeks after the official rollout, KTM test riders Alex Hofmann (GER) and Mika Kallio (FIN) last weekend completed the first tests with the new KTM MotoGP motorcycle at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, Spain.

Thanks to excellent conditions on the four-kilometer circuit, the two riders were able to put in numerous laps with Hofmann riding the new RC16 on Saturday and Kallio at the helm on Sunday.

Mike Leitner (MotoGP Consultant): “I’m very impressed with what the team has achieved in the four weeks since the rollout. There is already an excellent team spirit and this means a quick response onsite followed by considered action at the factory. The GP circuit at Valencia had a lot more grip than Spielberg (Austria’s Red Bull Ring) but even this worked very well with our package. I’m also happy with our current driver lineup. Both are working very professionally and are very analytical. Alex (Hofmann) delivers many useful inputs and even after one day Mika (Kallio) is already at a level where we can continue to work on improving the entire performance.”

Mika Kallio (MotoGP Test Rider): “Clearly there was still a lot of question marks before the test, but I’m now very happy and I can go into the winter break with a good feeling. Alex and the team have already done impressive work, we had absolutely no problems and we’re already on a really high level. Nevertheless we still have a long way to go and I’m looking forward to the next test. Until then I’m going home to do some racing on ice to keep myself fit.”

Alex Hofmann (MotoGP Test Rider): “It’s good to hear that what we have to say about the bike is going in the same direction. Mika was racing here a few weeks ago and he’s still in full racing mode. He was able to put in very respectful lap times at the end of his first day on the bike. This makes it clear that the entire package is working, which is another important step for the team before the winter.”

In the coming weeks there will be intensive further development of the KTM RC16 using the data collected and the inputs from both test riders ahead of the next test at the beginning of February.

Injuries Force Alex Lowes And Michael Van Der Mark To Withdraw From Jerez WSBK Test

The final test of 2016 for the World Superbike class has already lost two of its participants. Both Ten Kate Honda's Michael van der Mark and Pata Yamaha's Alex Lowes have been forced to withdraw from the test due to injury.

Lowes suffered a dislocated shoulder when he fell heavily at Turn 3 on Wednesday, crashing in the late afternoon. Though he walked away from that crash, and quickly had his dislocated shoulder put into place, a painful shoulder and restricted movement meant there was little sense in continuing. Lowes has returned to the UK for medical treatment, with the objective of being completely fit when testing resumes next year.

What happened to Michael van der Mark is a little more mysterious. The Honda Pro Racing organization posted a brief update on its Facebook page, adding little detail to Van der Mark's withdrawal. Van der Mark was suffering with pain in his right arm on Wednesday, which given his times on the day (Van der Mark was over a second slower than his new teammate Nicky Hayden) appear to have severely affected his speed. Van der Mark has now flown north seeking treatment, and will see a specialist in Antwerp, Belgium for further examinations.

Testing continues at Jerez for both the MotoGP and World Superbike classes today and tomorrow. Below is the press release issued by Yamaha on Alex Lowes' injury:


Early Exit for Lowes from Final Jerez Test

The Pata Yamaha World Superbike Team has withdrawn Alex Lowes from the final two days of winter testing at the Circuito de Jerez, in Spain, after yesterday's late afternoon high-side caused a dislocation to his left shoulder.

Early indications track-side concluded no serious damage after the dislocation was corrected by the swift actions of the circuit medical staff. However, with severely compromised movement and a speedy recovery his prime motivation, the British rider flew back to the UK this morning to seek specialist treatment.

Wednesday saw Lowes accomplish a full day of testing with his new WSBK-spec YZF-R1, completing 77 laps as he worked through a large raft of test items and electronic control strategies. The data collected will allow his technicians to continue to fine-tune his Yamaha machine in his absence, with a return to action scheduled for the New Year.

Teammate Sylvain Guintoli will continue to spearhead the Japanese marque's presence on track for the remaining two days at the Andalucían circuit, having already amassed 63 laps in the opening day.

Alex Lowes

"I'm disappointed not to be able to continue testing, as we have been doing a great job in understanding the YZF-R1 and developing my own riding style to suit it over the past few weeks. We were unlucky with the weather at Aragon so I was looking forward to a full three days of good conditions at Jerez to really get down to business. It wasn't to be, and my priority needs to be my fitness and rehabilitation after the crash yesterday, but we have been making some good progress so I'm pleased with the development so far. I felt really good on the bike yesterday and was able to be fast and consistent, I just made a small mistake - and perhaps got caught out by the drop in temperature at the end of the day - and it resulted in a pretty big crash!

The guys have done a great job this month and I know they will continue their hard work without me, now I just need to focus on getting back to 100% so we can be in the best possible position for the January tests and ready for Phillip Island."

Official: Casey Stoner Leaves Honda, Becomes Test Rider And Brand Ambassador For Ducati

Casey Stoner is to leave Honda and work with Ducati as a test rider and brand ambassador from 2016. Two press releases, one from Honda and one from Ducati, today confirmed the rumor which had emerged at Valencia during the race weekend, and especially after the test. Honda thanked Stoner for five years of collaboration, including two years of racing, during which he won fifteen races and a MotoGP championship. After his retirement, at the end of 2012, Stoner continued as a test rider for HRC, but rode only sporadically, no more than a couple of days a year.

This, it appears, seems to have been the trigger for Stoner to make the switch to Ducati as a test rider. The Australian had always retained good ties with the Italian factory, and the arrival of Gigi Dall'Igna as the head of Ducati Corse made a return to Ducati even more attractive. Stoner knows Dall'Igna well from his time racing an Aprilia in 125s and 250s, a period in which he finished as runner up in the 250 championship to Dani Pedrosa. As the only rider to have brought Ducati a MotoGP title, and after five long years since their last victory in the premier class - Stoner also being the last race winner on a Ducati - the Bologna factory have a lot of good reasons to sign the Australian. Stoner will no doubt also be well acquainted with the situation at Ducati through his good friend Chaz Davies, factory rider for Ducati's World Superbike team.

Though Stoner has made it clear he has no intention of returning to racing full time, he still enjoys riding MotoGP machines, and the chance to ride a Desmosedici more often than just two or three days a year will have been reason enough for him to leave. The Australian reportedly felt underutilized at HRC, due in part to the role of Marc Marquez as lead rider. According to German-language website Speedweek, Marquez felt threatened by Stoner's presence as a test rider, and criticized the input Stoner had given on the project. Marquez claimed he had to test everything Stoner had already tested, to check Stoner's feedback. HRC sources also let slip that Stoner had been over a second off the pace during his most recent test, at Sepang at the beginning of 2015, and so the combination of resistance from Marquez and slow times had made HRC reluctant to use the Australian. Stoner's lack of pace was also a factor in HRC not asking Stoner to replace Dani Pedrosa when the Spaniard was out with injury, something which Stoner had taken badly.

There are no such qualms at Ducati. Though the Desmosedici GP15 is a huge step forward over the previous bikes from the Bologna factory, the machine still has several weaknesses, mostly concentrated in the chassis. Andrea Iannone has been a revelation in 2015, maturing into a real threat for the podium every race, while Andrea Dovizioso is a solid and technically sound rider capable of giving very clear feedback. They still need help, though, to turn the GP16 from a contender into a winner, and this is precisely where Stoner should be able to help, especially alongside Michele Pirro, who has proven to be a talented and very quick test rider.

For the moment, it seems that Stoner will mainly concentrate on private tests, not riding in any of the official 2016 preseason tests at Sepang, Phillip Island or Qatar. However, as Stoner gets some miles under his belt, and particularly once he picks up some of the speed being away from racing tends to remove, the Australian could well make appearances at public tests, and possibly even as a wildcard at races. For 2016, the earliest Stoner could race would be the Mugello round on 22nd May, but a much more likely scenario would be Stoner racing at Phillip Island on 23rd October. That would also help boost attendance at the Phillip Island round, which has fallen by up to 20,000 since Stoner's retirement, the crowd on race day being just over 35,000.

One place where fans can be sure of seeing Casey Stoner on track is during next year's World Ducati Week at Misano, due to take place from 1st - 3rd July. 

Below are the two press releases from Ducati and Honda respectively:


Casey Stoner to return to Ducati as brand ambassador and test rider

Ducati Corse is delighted to announce that two-time MotoGP World Champion Casey Stoner will return to the Italian manufacturer next year in the role of brand ambassador and test rider.

Casey Stoner won the 2007 MotoGP World Championship on the Ducati Desmosedici GP with ten wins in eighteen races, results that also helped the Italian manufacturer to clinch the Constructors’ title. Between 2007 and 2010, Casey won a total of 23 races for Ducati.

The 30-year-old Australian from Southport (Queensland), who is widely considered to be one of the fastest and most talented riders ever, will become brand ambassador for the Bologna-based manufacturer and, as part of the agreement, will appear at the 2016 edition of World Ducati Week, scheduled to run from July 1-3. He will also take part in a selected number of MotoGP tests for the Ducati Team next year.

Casey Stoner: “It’s been a great journey with HRC over the last five years, winning the World Championship in 2011 was obviously a high point and I've made many friends and formed lasting relationships along the way. For 2016 I am very excited to announce that I will again be joining the Ducati team! I have so many great memories working with the people and the brand of Ducati and the opportunity to work with them again is something very special. Gigi Dall'Igna has brought with him a new approach and I'm looking forward to assisting the team, Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone however I can. The Ducati brand and the Ducati fans have been such a big part of my career and my life, so it will be really great to reunite the relationship and start another chapter with this iconic brand.”

Claudio Domenicali (CEO Ducati Motor Holding): “Stoner has always remained in the hearts of all the Ducatisti and I am really pleased that he has decided to come back to our family. Casey has an extraordinary talent and with his experience he will be able to make an important contribution for Gigi and the two Andreas in the development of the Desmosedici MotoGP bike. His presence at WDW 2016 will be a special gift for all the Ducati fans and enthusiasts, who will finally have the opportunity to catch up once again with this great champion who brought the 2007 world title to Borgo Panigale and who won numerous GP races with the Desmosedici GP.”


Honda bid a fond farewell to Casey Stoner

After a five year collaboration with Honda Racing Corporation, Casey Stoner will part ways with the Japanese manufacturer at the end of 2015.

Casey joined the factory squad – the Repsol Honda Team – in 2011 and adapted immediately to the RC212V bike winning ten races, and taking one 2nd place and five 3rd places. His victory in the Australian Grand Prix was his fifth in succession at his home race where he clinched the World Championship, Honda’s first since 2006.

Throughout his career with Honda, Casey has achieved a total of 15 victories (10 x 2011, 5 x 2012), 2 second positions (1 x 2011, 1 x 2012), 9 third positions (5 x 2011, 4 x 2012) in total 26 podiums. In addition to 17 pole positions (12 x 2011, 5 x 2012) and 9 fastest race laps (7 x 2011, 2 x 2012). He also celebrated a second place finish and one pole position aboard the satellite LCR Honda in 2006.

Honda Racing Corporation would like to thank Casey for all that he achieved during his time at Honda, and wish him and his family the very best for the future.

Shuhei Nakamoto
HRC Executive Vice President

"We have great memories of Casey’s time with Honda. From the moment he arrived in 2011 in the Repsol Honda Team we had a very close relationship and we always enjoyed speaking to him about racing and technical matters. Of course his Championship win in 2011 was a very special moment for us and a highlight of my career. Even after his racing days were over, I enjoyed attending his tests to take with him and spend time together. We would like to thank him for everything he gave to us over the past five years and send our best wishes to him and his family."

Aleix Espargaro Injures Back, Will Miss Private Sepang MotoGP Test

Aleix Espargaro has fractured a vertebra in a training accident. The factory Suzuki rider was out training on an off road bike, when he landed heavily from a jump, and felt pain in his back. He was taken to hospital, where an MRI scan revealed a flexion fracture of the vertebra, forcing him to miss the Sepang test planned for next week.

The injury suffered by Espargaro should not see him out of action for long. The Spaniard was discharged from hospital on Friday morning, and will now have to rest for a two to three week period to allow him to recover. No further complications were found when he was examined, and rest and physiotherapy should see him make a quick and full recover.

Espargaro's injury does mean that he will miss out on his first chance to try the new spec, or unified software to be used in MotoGP for 2016. At the Valencia test, both Espargaro and Viñales concentrated on learning to use the new Michelin tires, with their first run on the unified software scheduled for a private test at Sepang next week. Now, only Viñales will test it, along with Suzuki's test riders Takuya Tsuda and Nobu Aoki.

The press release from Suzuki appears below:


ESPARGARO OUT OF SEPANG TEST AFTER TRAINING ACCIDENT

Team Suzuki Press Office – November 20.

Team SUZUKI ECSTAR’s Aleix Espargarò will not part in the Sepang test in Malaysia next week following a training accident yesterday, November 19th, near his home town of Granollers in Spain.

Espargarò was riding an off road bike and when landing from a jump suddenly reported pain in his back.

After his immediate transfer to the Hospital Universitari Quiron Deixeus in Barcelona, he underwent initial medical checks and was kept in overnight for observation.

This morning a further MRI reported a flexion fracture of the T9 vertebrae but excluded any further complications.

He was cleared to go home today and he will now take a two-to-three-week rest that should see him fully-recover.

Team SUZUKI ECSTAR’s Sepang test on November 23-24th will see only team-mate Maverick Viñales and Suzuki MotoGP test riders Takuya Tsuda and Nobuatsu Aoki on track testing the development of the new Michelin tyres and new unified software.

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