Within hours of reports appearing on the Sportmediaset website that Casey Stoner has signed for Honda, the denials are starting to come in, as predicted here. GPOne.com - like Sportmediaset an Italian website, but probably the most reliable source of news from Italy - spoke to Honda Racing Corporation's Marketing Manager Livio Suppo, who denied that Stoner had already signed a contract.
"There are four great riders whose contracts are ending," Suppo told GPOne.com, "And it's clear that there will be interest in at least one of them. But at this moment, everyone is talking to everyone, but no one has signed anything."
The story that Casey Stoner would be leaving Ducati to join Honda seems designed, as we suggested before, to be part of a media campaign in Italy to pressure Valentino Rossi into signing with Ducati, a move that SportMediaSet, as the company that broadcasts MotoGP on TV in Italy, would significantly benefit from. Stoner's presence at Ducati would present a formidable, if not quite insurmountable, obstacle to the reigning World Champion switching to the Italian marque. After all, Rossi already has his hands full with his young teammate at Yamaha, and switching to Ducati with an equally strong teammate would be a case of choosing to depart the frying pan to try his luck in the fire. Ideally, Rossi would like to be in a team with fewer distractions from a fast teammate, and joining Casey Stoner at Ducati would not provide him with such an environment.
Whatever happens, it is, as the English like to say before the start of a darts match, game on. The silly season is about to get very torrid indeed over the next two months.