After a four-year stint that included a title in 2007, Casey Stoner will leave Ducati for Honda in 2011.
“I must thank Ducati for giving me such a great opportunity to race and win with them over these past four years” said Stoner in the Marlboro Ducati team’s press announcement. “They took a gamble when they signed me at the end of 2006 as I was unknown, but as we worked together we were able to win a Championship, many races and challenge for the Championship in the last two seasons. I have now decided to move on and I will have new challenges in the future and different obstacles to overcome, but I will not forget these years with Ducati and the people I have had the privilege to work so closely with. So a big thanks to Ducati and all our sponsors who we have shared success with while achieving lifelong goals.”
Stoner joined Ducati in 2007, when he campaigned the new 800cc Desmosedici to a stunning MotoGP championship. The 24-year-old’s tenure with the Italian factory since that high-water mark has seen sporadic fortunes, with a serious title run in 2008 against Rossi followed by a disappointing 2009 season where the Australian missed multiple GPs due to a mysterious medical ailment (later reportedly diagnosed as lactose intolerance). This season Stoner’s title bid got started with multiple DNFs in the opening rounds, the usual podium threat not securing his first rostrum until Round 6 of the championship.
Ducati Corse General Director Pilippo Presiosi said of the rider move, “I would like to thank Casey on behalf of our fans and our sponsors, but most of all on behalf of all the people working at Ducati. The victories and emotions he gave us, rewarded all the hard work and sacrifice we made. In these four years together we have had a lot of great moments. Securing the 2007 MotoGP World Championship title and the victory at Mugello in 2009 were moments that we will never forget. In Casey we not only found an incredibly talented rider, but also an honest and loyal guy and that’s why there will always be a strong and sincere bond between us, even as a competitor.”
Stoner campaigned for Honda during his rookie MotoGP season, with the Australian rider for the LCR satellite team.
The move to Honda is a return to the manufacturer which plucked the Aussie out of the 250 ranks, with Stoner having campaigned his rookie MotoGP season aboard the LCR satellite team. It appears that Stoner will compete alongside Repsol Honda teammates Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso for 2011, with HRC Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto saying in Honda’s press announcement:
“We are very pleased that Casey will join Honda again next year. Clearly he is one of the top riders in MotoGP and he will bring valuable speed and experience to our team. In the factory Honda squad we already have two very strong and experienced riders in Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso who are performing very well and currently hold second and third positions in the 2010 World Championship. HRC hopes also to retain these two riders for next year – giving us what would be a truly formidable line-up.”
With Stoner’s move confirmed, Rossi’s rumored switch to Ducati is now expected. That would leave the empty Fiat Yamaha seat open to be filled, presumably, by standout rookie and current satellite Yamaha rider Ben Spies.