Casey Stoner To Return To Ducati In Testing Role, Wildcards A Possibility

Casey Stoner is set to make some form of return to MotoGP. The Australian is to switch back from Honda to Ducati, taking on a role as test rider for the Italian firm. There is a chance that Stoner could also be given one or more wildcard rides on Ducati's MotoGP bike.

The news comes after a series of rumors and stories, starting with the German language website Speedweek, and culminating with unofficial confirmation from Israeli TV MotoGP commentator Tammy Gorali. Ducati's Sporting Director Paolo Ciabatti spoke officially to journalists at Valencia, but refused to confirm the deal. "Casey is a hero of Ducati fans, he won so many races and was a world champion for Ducati in 2007," Ciabatti said. "We will see what the future brings but we know that his contract with Honda will expire at the end of this year and obviously if there's a chance to do something together we would love to do it."

Various paddock sources confirmed the deal to Tammy Gorali, including sources close to both sides of the deal. The agreement appears to have come about after a number of issues Stoner had as a test rider for Honda. The main issue for the Australian was the fact that HRC appeared to ignore the feedback he had given on the Honda RC213V MotoGP bike, especially the aggressiveness of the engine. When Honda then called Hiroshi Aoyama to stand in for Dani Pedrosa during his absence, passing over Casey Stoner, despite the fact that he had offered his services when Pedrosa withdrew to recover from arm pump surgery.

Stoner has a contract with HRC which lasts until the end of the year, so an official announcement will have to wait until 1st January. We will then get to hear about Ducati's full plans with Stoner, including any plans for wildcard rides he may be offered.

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Comments

Stoner turned down the most lucrative contract of the history of MotoGP (with low PR commitments as a bonus) when he bowed out in the end of 2012.
HRC was ready to drown him in dollars, but it did not matter one bit.
Money is most definitely not the reason why he went away, and not the reason why he might come back.

Anyway, exciting news for the sport, and it's great to actually feel excited about motogp news again, to get out of the poisoned atmosphere that ruined the end of an exciting championship.

Total votes: 231

He already made millions from his years in motogp. He owns a house on the Gold Coast - where he grew up and has always wanted to return. He still has sponsorship from a number of companies and spruiks their products and services on social media. Lastly, I get the feeling that he probably has fairly modest needs (for a retired sports star).

I don't think it's purely the money that he's chasing.

Total votes: 167

I have to agree with you. I don't think money is high on his priority list. I think the thing he cares about is feeling respected, valued and part of the 'family'. It's strange though. He seemed so in love with Honda.

Slightly off topic. I'm probably going against the grain here, but I can't come to call Iannone an alien for one simple reason - I believe that if Casey was still riding the Ducati he would be winning races.

Total votes: 190

I don't think he's been inducted as an alien yet ;-)
I do believe him and Viñales are alien material, and 2016 will tell us if they can fulfill this promise of expending the alien group.

Total votes: 162

Iannone is the closest thing to an alien we have seen outside the top 4. He completely destroyed Dovi this year. The only teammates I am aware of that did that were Stoner and Pedrosa. The most shocking thing this year was Iannone's consistency, something that he lacked in Moto2 between displays of spectacular riding.

Stoner's measure of pace vs Iannone will be a good indicator of whether we should get excited about him coming back. Hope we see him at Sepang...although seems like he should still be recovering from what sounded like really bad injuries a few months ago...

Total votes: 142

STOP saying "poisoned". You're lucky enough to see drama's of the greatest GP riders unfold and you expect rivalries to remain friendly. Get a grip.

Total votes: 190

No one expects rivals to exchange Christmas cards, but IMO there should be some level of basic respect. You may enjoy the resurgent Jerry Springer atmosphere, but I and others don't.

Total votes: 164

and this has absolutely nothing to do with friendly or not friendly rivalry.
But anyway, that's not the topic at hand here.
Every MotoGP fan has to be excited about the possibility to witness Stoner VS Marquez VS Lorenzo VS Rossi VS Pedrosa around Phillip Island!

Total votes: 162

I'd love to see CS27, MM93, JL99, VR46, DP26 going head to head and then add Ianonne, Dovi, Crutchlow, Smith and Pol to the mix.... #MotoGP2016

Total votes: 173

My respect for Smith has grown immensely this year, but one thing that Valencia really highlighted was the stark contrast between the factory bikes/riders and the rest. Rossi rode a good race, but I don't think he quite had the pace of the front three regardless of where he started. Despite that, he scythed through the field and the performance and handling of him on the factory Yamaha was a night and day compared to the riders he passed. Even Smith looked awkward and slow on the bike compared to Rossi; he had trouble getting the bike where it needed to be and Rossi always seemed able to break later and hold a tighter line.

What I'm saying is, if you're imagining a battle with all the best bikes and riders at the front then I don't expect it to involve the satellite bikes in an ordinary race.

Total votes: 153

Huh? Unless he's developed one hell of a gambling or drug addiction, I don't think he feels the need for any more money. He walked away from umpteen million a year w/o looking back.

Total votes: 157

Casey should stay retired. He has done enough, and why any-one would return to that back biting circus is beyond me.

Total votes: 135

Not another stoner return merry go round.

Total votes: 193

Can you imagine what those two could have achieved. Casey on the bike, Gigi getting the team, engineers and designers working properly.

Struth....

Total votes: 175

You've got to ask if someone inside of Honda is trying to destroy their image - they are currently lurching from one PR disaster to another. One of the greatest riders of recent times snubs them to work elsewhere. What price a full return to MotoGP if the wildcards go well?

Wouldn't be surprised if Honda released the telemetry feeds from Sepang (as they promised) to try and distract attention away from what must be seen by the management as a gigantic blunder.

Total votes: 173

I think its best for all parties if we just move on from that incident. I cant say for sure but i think honda have the same opinion.

Total votes: 148

Big H does seem to have a touch of arrogance with riders,they always had the
theory that their bike were the fastest,and anyone could win on them!!

a situation that exploded in their faces when Valli went to Yamaha,

I respect H engineering,I ride one myself,but not sure of their "people" skills,

CS27 on a Duc would be fun

Total votes: 162

Honda seem to be the checkbook racers of the motogp field. They have the money and they prove that, if you throw enough of it at the problem, then you can normally be the fastest. Even still, sometimes someone with less money and more wile comes along and puts you in your place.

Total votes: 144

I guess you could say Honduh has a bit of arrogance, but I think, if they do, it pales in comparison to what Ducati have shown toward their riders up until the last couple of seasons since the new regime has been established. I mean look at who Ducati had to ride and develop their bikes! Three world champions, at one point BOTH of their riders were former WCs, and they were treated like "wet behind the ears" moto2/moto3 rookies as far as the developers/designers and engineers listening to their opinions of what needed to be changed in the design or on the bike! And if the rider(s) came out in the press and said "Look, we've told them what's wrong with the design, and they've ignored us" they were either scolded and penalized (Cal Crutchlow being given a bike that would no longer receive upgrades) or they were simply tossed off as soon as their contract was up or Ducati could figure out a way out of it, or they'd irritate the rider till they begged to go someplace else. Talk about arrogance. "We are Ducati. It cannot possibly be our flawless beautiful Italian machine. It is the crap rider. He cannot extract the most from the bike because he is no good so we find a better one..." Except that they've had at one point or another, five or six of the flat out best riders on the planet...

Total votes: 150

I also blame the old regime for Ben Spies's demise. Wasn't Elbowz the last American to win a race in the premier class (Assen)?

Total votes: 144

Good stuff, having as strong a test rider as Stoner would be especially important what with the new Michelins and spec electronics.
I wouldn't have thought it was to get more money from Honda, if he was motivated solely my attaining money he'd still be racing.

However, During his time with Ducati, wasn't it always a complaint of his that the engineering Dept didnt heed his advice either? He was always full of praise for the race team, set-up guys, mechanics etc, but always felt his feedback to engineering fell on deaf ears? Or that they didnt have the budget to change things?

I remember he used to comment bitterly about all the frames that Rossi was given to try during his stint at Ducati, with little success. If he joins up with Ducati again, will things be different this time around?

Total votes: 168

"wasn't it always a complaint of his that the engineering Dept didnt heed his advice either? He was always full of praise for the race team, set-up guys, mechanics etc, but always felt his feedback to engineering fell on deaf ears? Or that they didnt have the budget to change things?"

I believe that was every rider's complaint with Ducati, pre-Gigi. Not so much chatter about it now. Some did attribute the slowness of updates, etc. on Bologna's comparatively small budget but no way of confirming it.

Total votes: 164

is the big difference between now and then. The engineers at the Ducati factory have to rotate to the teams and back again (to get them to better understand the issues 'on the field') and we can clearly see the results of the improved management structure that Gigi has set up. Now, if Ducati could get an 'official' alien (I'd like to see Iannoni fight another year at this level before giving him the moniker) they could very well play a much larger role in the championship. Of course it's not clear if Stoner is as fast as he was, but a more consistent machine and management structure could make a difference.

Total votes: 154

With Gigi now running the show, things are definitely different to last time.

Ducati are in it to win it, and with the two Andreas they aren't even going to get close unless they have an incredibly stellar bike. Maybe Casey can give them the feedback they need...who knows.

Casey still won't care about the cash, as others have already mentioned - he just likes riding bikes FAST, and without the constant media PR and scrutiny. This opportunity could scratch that itch he has.

Let's hope it's true! Bring on 2016.

Total votes: 163

When CS27 was at Ducati they were nickel and diming the race team, with little planned in-season development as I understand from comments made by CS, Jerry B and others. Part of this was due, as JB observed, that Ducati's approach was to celebrate the wins and think everything was rosy, rather than analysing what caused the crashes. Consequently the bikes were not improved as they thought they were good enough to win. They seriously undervalued the exceptional skills of Stoner, and like Honda I suspect, thought the bike was great and didn't need improving.
As I understand there is a new professionalism in the race team brought about by the glaring evidence that even VR46 and his team couldn't make the POS from those years work.

New money and new professionalism and a coherent engineering strategy appears to be at the root of their improvement.

On the CS27 front, I hope he stays retired. He's got nothing to prove IMHO and a couple of years away can seriously damage that last 0.1% that is needed to be at the top in MotoGP. I'm thinking Freddie Spencer as an example.

Total votes: 145

I thought Casey had been very displeased with Ducati for their lack of support (as he saw it) during the time he was too ill to race.

I'm excited to see him back if this is true.

Total votes: 151

Phillip Morris was pulling the puppet strings with Ducati. Remember Suppo was still at the helm then and he was one of Stoner's biggest supporters.

I suspect that Phillip Morris has had sufficient time to reflect on how they behaved back then, and on what Stoner went on to achieve for Repsol in the aftermath of the Phillip Morris screw-up.

Total votes: 134

I do hope this is true and I also hope that Stoner races for more than just the odd wildcard - as the novelty and disruption to a championship will wear thin in time.

If it's not just a development role then this is great news indeed.

Whilst not quite Stoner vs Marquez on the same equipment this could be a very good thing indeed for 2016.

Bring it on.

Total votes: 165

All the reports were, that Ducati engineers ignored his feedback.

Reportedly, when or after, Jeremy Burgess was asked about his impression of Italian engineering, his response was, "what engineering?"

If there have been real changes at Ducati Corse, why wouldn't Casey go back????

After all, he has " the passion".

Personally, can't wait.

Total votes: 155

JB was at charity fundraiser in his home town of Adelaide. Put on by Italian Motorcycles who were a Ducati Dealer. He was asked about the professionalism of the Ducati race team and he gave a wry laugh when he made that observation.

He said even a tyre change in practice was slow and required more tools than at Honda or Yamaha, to the point where often they would lose at least one tyre change in practice compared to Honda and Yamaha, which put them behind the 8-ball in practice and qualifying.

Total votes: 138

I read this from other sources before but I think Gigi has cleared up a lot of that. It came down to communication between the engineers and the team at the track. The example I read ( sorry can't recall source) was of a mechanic telling the engineer to use only 6 mm and 10 mm bolts for the GP15 instead of 6 mm, 8 mm and 10 mm bolts. The engineer couldn't understand what difference it would make but the mechanic explained that you can easily tell the difference in size between a 6mm and a 10 mm bolt with the naked eye but not so much between a 6 and an 8. This confusion took time and was frustrating and is a very small example of what was probably a very systemic problem

Total votes: 142

Stoner used to have renown to have amazing throttle control thereby preventing the traction control kicking in. The new spec software may just suit him from this perspective. Time will tell.. assuming this is true of course.

Total votes: 169

Casey switched TC to lowest level so he could control by himself what is going on with bike.
Now he could have what he wanted - less sophisticated ECU with less controlling.
It would be kind of dream for me if he is racing again...

Total votes: 156

Honda hasn't treated a former rider well (ask Doohan, Rossi, etc.). Casey told them the engine was too peaky, they didn't listen. They used his quotes to sell the RC213V-RS as being half a second off the factory bikes (obviously a lie, ask Nicky and Eugene), didn't let him sub for Dani for bogus reasons, then gave him a throttle that stuck for the 8 hours resulting in some pretty big injuries.

Who could blame him?

2017 is when it will really get interesting. All the major factory riders will be at the end of their contracts. Dovi has been underperforming...if Stoner really does wild-card, it's gonna be a battle between Dovi and Ianonne to see who gets dropped. That is if Stoner has any desire to return full time, which nobody has reported on. He's answered every single interview since his retirement with "I have no desire to come back full time". Maybe he just wants to test another bike? He's said he likes being a test rider because he can ride the fastest bikes on the world, on the best circuits in the world, without any of the media and PR bull****.

Total votes: 154

Absolutely GREAT news! Why HRC refused to listen to his feedback & not let him sub for Dani is a connundrum. David said that Gigi's greatest accomplishment was getting the engineers & race guys to function as a 'team'. And the race team loved Casey.

Total votes: 146

Could this have anything to do with Suzuka? Remember how odd it was that Honda put out a press release apologizing to Casey for the crash he had during the 8hr...

Would love to see it simply for the fresh air, Ducati is the fun factory ;)

Total votes: 162

It wasn't odd when you consider that HRC's first response was to deny that there was a problem with the bike... when the telemetry was released they had no choice to admit fault. Which is why they then apologised, after the fact. The problem they then faced is that Stoner is not one to suffer that sort of corporate arse-covering lightly - he's been there before!

Total votes: 151

Marquez is top dog at Honda and Casey knows that. There were rumors of Lorenzo being seen with Gigi, often, but maybe that rumored Ducati move has fallen to the wayside. If Casey wants to return to MotoGP and have #1 status then Ducati is his best bet.

Total votes: 156

With the unified rules and spec electronics, MotoGP looks on track to return to the glory days of the 500s. With the announcement of Stoner's return to Ducati as a test rider, we will have the most world champions contesting a title since the 90s era.

With Suzuki, KTM and Aprillia returning to the series we also have the most manufacturers in the sport since the early days. This means lots of factory seats for talented riders.

What an incredible turn of events. I sincerely hope Stoner is considering a return to MotoGP for 2017 if he enjoys his wildcard rounds. Most of his criticisms of MotoGP have been addressed. Standardized electronics and removal of Open/CRT class are already complete. I don't think you'll ever be able to reduce the PR circus as that's what brings in eyeballs for maketing dollars, but at this point the focus will no be on him at all with the Marquez/Lorenzo/Rossi feud at full boil.

Come on back Casey, and make 2017 the greatest year in MotoGP since the 90s.

Total votes: 160

All Ducati have to do is dangle a carrot in Suppo's direction and re-establish dream team red.
Tardozzi is already there, Gigi has been a worthy replacement at Ducati for Fellipe and I do empathize with him.
Casey testing sounds great. He is not a spring chicken anymore, but, given a year as a test rider, a few wild cards and a few top 10 results 2016 may see him return in 2017 full time with a mission to do a Hailwood. Remember his return on a Ducati at IOM.
2017 factory team is the Ducati issue right now.
2016 sees Dovi and Joe's contracts up for renewal.
Should they deliver in 2016 and Casey upsets applecarts in 2016, Ducati can conceivably run a 3 factory rider team in 2017 as did HRC in 2011.
I don't think Stoner gives a hoot about the money.
As ever, he loves racing to win and very clean.
Let's see how this one pan's out, it may be the best part of a silly season that had no silly season to begin with.
As the antithesis of Rossi's public domain pertaining to media and sponsorship obligations, this will only come about if Stoner gets to race and do pretty much nothing else in red.
2015 ...VAMOS !!!
Anyway,its all conjecture right now.

Total votes: 158

As a fan, it would be great to have Casey back in MotoGP. I don't know what he is thinking, but can't help but feel that the poorly prepared Suzuka bike, and the snub (perceived or real) by Honda when he offered to race in Dani's absence may have affected his goodwill towards Honda.

Casey strikes me as a loyal chap, and he may now be feeling that that loyalty was not reciprocated.

IMHO, if Casey returns to Ducati, I believe that it will help improve both the bikes and the racing.

Total votes: 166

.....of all parties.

HRC are known for wanting control and power, etc. I always thought that they didn't give the bike to Stoner when Pedrosa was out because they were afraid of him being too fast and only being a fill in.

Stoner asks for a wild card ride, HRC say no, he goes elsewhere. Seems simple enough. I don't see a reason for him to be loyal to Honda, and I don't see a reason for Ducati to be angry he left.

My fingers are all crossed for this.

Total votes: 122

Dont forget the duc is a v4 like the honda, and ducati copied many other design elements as well. Stoners input given his experience w/honda could be invaluable.

Total votes: 141

This 2015 season just keeps on delivering, what a year. The teams must be drained and looking forward to a break. And the Journo's as well, what a year for them.

When/if I see Casey line up on the grid on Sunday arvo, then I will be a little excited. But not before.

Total votes: 142

One can dream, so I hope to see Stoner testing the GP16 in Sepang with all the other big guns in MotoGP. It would be a good way of assessing his potential after three years off. At least the competition will have had two months off and the bikes are all different from 2015.

Total votes: 152

how giddy I got when I read this headline. I try not to look into the "Casey returning" rumors but 27 on the Ducati is too much. We could never be this lucky right? Things like this don't happen in real life.

Funny thing is I don't even care about comparing him to 93 or 46 or anyone, or the whole can he still compete? Who cares, let's find out! The thought of him racing the big (well not as much anymore) red machine around Phillip Island again is just too good to pass up.

Total votes: 136

This has to be early April fools. Maybe he's pissed about the 8 hour crash and Honda not letting him fill in for Dani??

Total votes: 130

Over the weekend I was talking with a mate about Stoner - he wasn't aware of Stoner's Suzuka crash.

So the conversation rolled on, as we mused about a man like Stoner and how it just doesn't seem possible that he could walk away from his life's work - and we ended up agreeing that Stoner to KTM for 2017 would be something special... with perhaps a 2018 title for the pairing. Which would make him the first man ever to win titles with three different manufacturers? In the modern era at least.

He does have some history with KTM...

Total votes: 144

If Casey Stoner is indeed returning he should as a full time racer and not as a tester for Ducati or any other manufacturer. He is not Nobuatsu Aoki or Michelle Pirro. He is a racer and so he should race. And I have read many posts that talk of Gigi Dall'Igna as the saviour of Ducati. I feel sad that the genius of Filippo Preziosi has been bundled with the bad management of Ducati. Preziosi was sacrificed at the altar of Rossi's demands. I remember Preziosi once saying that he would really have liked to see what Casey Stoner would have done with the 2011 (or maybe 2012) motorcycle of Ducati. Preziosi know things about Stoner that others didn't. Rossi has ended some good people's career in his ruthless quest for wins. It would be great to see Casey Stoner team up with Preziosi and Gabarini when Ducati are willing to listen and spend. That would solve many mysteries of the past.

Total votes: 157

Just for the giggle:

BOTH Ducati and HRC enlist Stoner as a development rider for 2016: they both know he is too honest to play one off against the other.

Both offer him a sweetener of a wildcard for P.I.

Stoner will never race for the WC whilst ever Ezpeleta ( the Monty Burns of motoGp) is in charge: he knows Ezpeleta is Rossi's bitch.

But for Stoner, a chance to ride the fastest bike on the fastest circuit in the calendar without all the BS of the 'tour' PR etc.: catnip to a tiger.

Damn, but it would be good to see.

Total votes: 144

Preziosi was a key person in the Ducati debacle and the new owners and management had reasons to change. If he was totally blameless and totally right why did he leave? I'm not saying he isn't a brilliant engineer relative to most people, but Dall'Igna seems to be rated more highly and able to provide leadership that Preziosi evidently did not.
Maybe Stoner could have ridden what Rossi couldn't, and perhaps he can ride what Dovi is now struggling with. However, having a bike that can only be ridden by one person isn't ideal, no matter how clever an idea the engineering is.
The past is the past. There is no mystery to Ducati's struggles - it was not a good bike. The new one is evidently better, and it may just be that their wings are what the new Michelins need. If so, HRC and Yamaha will already be on the case.
2016 may well see lots of things change, but going back to the past isn't a direction for real progress.

I would like to see Stoner on the current machine though, even just for testing (and that's probably his choice, just like leaving was).

Total votes: 154

One thing seems obvious to me; Casey Stoner does a lot more for Ducati then he did for HRC. They get the fastest test rider on the planet to help them develop their MotoGP bikes, where HRC used him more like a novelty. Ducatisti love CS, where Honda fans are probably ambivalent. And with some practice, CS could probably win a race or two for them as a wild card entry. True, a few Ducati people seemed to throw him under the bus during the Lactose period, but those people are probably gone now and CS is the only rider to give them a World Championship in MotoGP. Some have said 'returns' rarely go well, but it has for a select group of uniquely gifted racers. I am hoping we get a chance to witness his attempt.

Total votes: 147

For Stoner to consider working with Ducati again he must be certain that the management of their racing program has really turned around under Gigi D'alligna. I suspect that Casey's best friend Chaz Davies racing for the Ducati WSBK team for the past two years may perhaps have been a conduit for such confidence.

Total votes: 150

Ive been running a similar theory through my mind. Being close mates as they are, Casey attending a couple SBK events & spotted in the Duc garage with Chaz. Never paid much attention till now.

Total votes: 142