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.
Press releases from the World Superbike teams after testing at Aragon:
Jonathan Rea leaves the Motorland Aragon circuit as the fastest man from the two-day World Superbike test at the circuit. Rea spent the day working on the engine management and electronics. The 2016 Kawasaki ZX-10R has shown itself to be a powerful machine, but the acceleration is not as easy to manage as the 2015 bike. Rea's Kawasaki teammate Tom Sykes also lapped Aragon on Tuesday, after choosing to sit out the first day of the two-day test due to the weather conditions.
Chaz Davies was reported as being second fastest, though no official timing was available. According to the German-language website Speedweek, the Aruba.it Ducati rider posted a lap of 1'51.0, 0.7 slower than the time set by Rea. Davies tested electronics strategies, as well suspension components, in search of more precise steering. Javi Fores took the second Ducati out, standing in for the still injured Davide Giugliano.
Alex Lowes was the faster of the two Pata Yamaha bikes, 1.4 seconds quicker than his new teammate Sylvain Guintoli. The Pata Yamaha pair are still working mainly on getting used to the YZF-R1, running a bike basically in BSB spec, development a priority for later.
Nicky Hayden turned his first official laps as a World Superbike rider on Monday, putting the Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR through its paces for the first time. The test did not get off to a particularly auspicious start, the day delayed by a wet track and thick fog, which took a long time to clear. Nevertheless, Hayden took his first laps shortly before one, to try to get a feel for the bike. The first exit was on wet tires, the track still damp, and there was no serious action on the circuit until late in the afternoon, when the sun finally broke through the clouds.
Though no times were released, German-language website Speedweek reports that Hayden's best lap was a 1'53.3, 1.8 seconds off the fastest time of reigning world champion Jonathan Rea, who set a 1'51.5. Hayden spent a lot of time working on his position on the bike and the position of footpegs and seat. He also spent a lot of time with the electronics, trying to set them up to get a better connection between throttle and engine. You can read more of his comments on the Bikesportnews website.
Andrea Iannone has decided against having surgery to repair the left shoulder he injured in a testing crash at Mugello in the middle of this year. Ducati Corse issued the following press release on the subject:
Iannone to forgo left shoulder operation so as not to jeopardize start of 2016 season
Andrea Iannone has opted not to have an operation on his left shoulder, which he injured in a crash during testing at Mugello in May, in order to be in a better physical condition for the start of next year's MotoGP season.
The decision was taken after lengthy consultation with Dr. Porcellini, and the rider from Vasto has preferred to go for treatment aimed at strengthening the muscles of the affected area over the next few months, with the aim of arriving at the first tests of 2016 in good shape.
The alternative for Iannone would have been surgery, with a minimum post-op rest period of three months before he can resume his training.
The final day of testing at Valencia was a repeat of the first day: a lot of crashes on the Michelin tires, the factory Hondas, Yamahas and Ducatis working on the brand new spec electronics, the satellite bikes and the Suzukis working on their own 2015 electronics. For the Suzukis, that was not such a problem. The new electronics were likely to be an improvement on their own electronics, both Maverick Viñales and Aleix Espargaro said, so missing out now was not such a problem. Suzuki have another test planned at Sepang at the end November, at which they plan to switch the 2016 unified software. With two days of Michelin testing under the belt, testing the spec software should be easier.
Choosing to wait until Sepang could be a smart strategy. There, with more time and test riders to help, Suzuki will have the resources to make quicker progress with the spec software. Honda, but especially Yamaha, showed that progress was possible, both Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi saying that their second day on the spec electronics had been much better than the first day. "Yesterday, the thing was it was just a check out of the system to understand how they work in which corner, but the power was not done to have the best performance," Jorge Lorenzo said. "We work on that for the next morning and I felt it was much better and I improved during all the day quite a bit." Valentino Rossi agreed. "From yesterday to today already the situation improved a lot. It is still not at the same level for sure, but it looks like we can improve I think quite quickly."
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the two-day test at Valencia:
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."
The 2016 MotoGP season got underway this morning, as the sound of MotoGP bikes out on track echoed round the amphitheater of the Valencia circuit, chasing away much of the bitterness and recriminations left hanging there in the wake of the 2015 season showdown. With new bikes, new tires, new electronics, and new and old riders on new and old bikes, there was much to look forward to. It felt like MotoGP had a future again.
With new tires and new electronics, many teams had chosen to forego too many changes to their bikes, but there were still some novelties out on track. Honda had brought a 2016 bike, complete with a new engine. Factory Yamaha had an intermediate version of their 2016 bike, complete with fuel tank moved to the rear of the bike. Despite Gigi Dall'Igna's assurances yesterday that they would be testing nothing new to concentrate on the Michelins, Andrea Dovizioso confirmed that he had tried a new chassis.
At Suzuki, they spend the day working on adapting to the tires, and gathering more data for the 2016 bike. Engineers in Hamamatsu are getting that ready for the Sepang test – at least, that is what Maverick Viñales and Aleix Espargaro are hoping – a bike that will produce more horsepower and have a fully seamless gearbox.
There was some shuffling of faces and equipment in the satellite teams, with bikes being wheeled from garage to garage, and a few riders moving along with them. The happiest moment of all for riders like Eugene Laverty and Jack Miller was to wave goodbye to the Honda RC213V-RS, a bike which one rider referred to as "a piece of ****". Miller jumped onto the standard RC213V, and was immediately delighted by Honda's electronics. Laverty, meanwhile traded his Honda Open bike for a Ducati GP14.2, and was immediately impressed by the red-shirted Ducati staff who had invaded the Aspar garage, a real contrast with the Honda. That had been a real customer bike: you paid your money, and you took your bike, and you were left to get on with it on your own.
Press releases from the teams after the first day of testing at Valencia:
They say that truth is stranger than fiction. The more pressing question is how to distinguish between the two. Narratives are easily created – it is my stock in trade, and the trade which every sports writer plies – but where does stringing together a collection of related facts move from being a factual reconstruction into the realms of invented fantasy? When different individuals view the same facts and draw radically opposite conclusions, are we to believe that one is delusional and the other is sane and objective? Most of all, how much value should we attach to the opinions of each side? Do we change our opinion of the facts based on our sympathy or antipathy for the messenger?
That is the confusion which the final round of MotoGP has thrust the world of Grand Prix racing into. What should have been a celebration of the greatest season of racing in the premier class in recent years, and possibly ever, was rendered farcical, as two competing interpretations of a single set of facts clashed, exploded, then dragged the series down into the abyss. Bitterness, anger, suspicion, fear, all of these overshadowed some astonishing performances, by both winners and losers. Looked at impartially, the Valencia round of MotoGP was a great day of fantastic racing. But who now can look at it impartially?
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after the final race of 2015 at Valencia:
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after qualifying for the final Grand Prix of the year at Valencia: