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.