When rumors emerged after Jerez that Casey Stoner had signed a contract with Honda, the news was met with a certain amount of scepticism. The story broke in the Italian press, with the TV broadcaster Sportmediaset the first to publish the reports. But Casey Stoner has consistently dismissed any such talk, saying it is far too early to be thinking about 2011, and that his first focus is on this season.
Those rumors appear to be firming up, however. For the German-language publication Speedweek is now also reporting that the deal has been done, and that Stoner will be switching to the factory Repsol Honda team for 2011, joining his former mentor at Ducati, HRC marketing manager Livio Suppo. According to Speedweek - run by the veteran journalist Gunther Wiesinger - Stoner has been offered some 5 million euros a year to ride the Honda.
Rumors of the deal first emerged after Stoner's father and manager, Colin, was seen at Jerez, where he reportedly held talks with HRC. It is MotoGP's worst kept secret that Honda is desperate for a return to glory in MotoGP, after taking just a single title since Valentino Rossi's departure at the end of 2004, Nicky Hayden taking glory in the final year of the 990s in 2006. By signing a proven winner - Stoner has 1 championship and 20 victories to his name in the MotoGP class, twice the total of the current Repsol Honda team - HRC hopes to boost its chances of a return to championship glory. With Jorge Lorenzo looking increasingly likely to remain at Yamaha, Stoner is HRC's only realistic option from MotoGP's four current aliens. What Stoner's apparent signing means for the futures of Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso remains to be seen.