Ducati have signed two-time MotoGP world champion Casey Stoner as brand ambassador and test rider. The Australian took the 2007 title with 10 wins on the Ducati Desmosedici GP, in a year which also saw the Italian firm claim the Constructors’ title.
The 30-year-old switched from Ducati in 2010, having notched up 23 wins. He went on to take his second world title with Honda in 2011, and retired from MotoGP at the end of the 2012 season.
Having spent a year racing in the mid-field in Australian V8 Supercars, he signed with Honda as a test rider from 2013 to 2015, with a return to racing at the Suzuka 8 Hours in 2015 which ended when a throttle problem caused Stoner to crash out of the lead and suffer a broken right scapula and fractured left tibia. After offering to till in for the injured Dani Pedrosa, Honda chose test rider Hiroshi Aoyama rather than Stoner. His contract with Honda formally ends in January 2016, when more details will be available on his involvement.
So far it’s been confirmed he will be appearing at the 2016 World Ducati Week between July 1-3 2016, and will take part in a selected number of MotoGP tests throughout the year.
Stoner is quoted in the official press release: “It’s been a great journey with HRC over the last five years, winning the World Championship in 2011 was obviously a high point and I’ve made many friends and formed lasting relationships along the way. For 2016 I am very excited to announce that I will again be joining the Ducati team! I have so many great memories working with the people and the brand of Ducati and the opportunity to work with them again is something very special. Gigi Dall’Igna has brought with him a new approach and I’m looking forward to assisting the team, Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone however I can. The Ducati brand and the Ducati fans have been such a big part of my career and my life, so it will be really great to reunite the relationship and start another chapter with this iconic brand.”
There’s also a quote from Claudio Doemnicali, the Ducati CEO: “Stoner has always remained in the hearts of all the Ducatisti and I am really pleased that he has decided to come back to our family. Casey has an extraordinary talent and with his experience he will be able to make an important contribution for Gigi and the two Andreas in the development of the Desmosedici MotoGP bike. His presence at WDW 2016 will be a special gift for all the Ducati fans and enthusiasts, who will finally have the opportunity to catch up once again with this great champion who brought the 2007 world title to Borgo Panigale and who won numerous GP races with the Desmosedici GP.”
While the 30-year-old Australian wasn’t always the most popular rider around the world, there’s no doubting the success he achieved. Given his desire to race again at Honda, and the resurgence of a 6-year-older Valentino Rossi, it’s entirely possible we may see him race for a season in 2017 if any wildcard appearances go well next year. And Ducati have found it hard to replicate the success they achieved with Stoner – riders including Cal Crutchlow and Valentino Rossi have failed to master the current Ducati MotoGP machines.
It’d certainly be interesting to see how a return for Casey Stoner on a competitive bike might stir up the current Marquez, Lorenzo, Rossi and Pedrosa dynamic even more.