Casey Stoner has made a temporary return to MotoGP, completing two days of testing for Honda at Motegi. Over the two days of testing, Stoner focused on the 2015 version of Honda's RC213V, the Australian comparing the settings used by Repsol Honda's current riders, Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa, to see how they work with the new bike. Stoner also worked on preparing the 2015 further ahead of its debut at the Valencia test after the final race of the season. Finally, he also spent some time on the development versions of Michelin's MotoGP tires, as the French manufacturer prepares to take over as spec tire supplier from 2016 onwards. As is their custom with all testing, Honda did not release any lap times.
Stoner volunteered to do the test as compensation for the tests he was scheduled to do in 2013. Those tests were largely rained off due to poor weather in Japan, and Stoner felt he still owed HRC some testing. With better weather conditions at Motegi for this test, the Australian was able to make good on his debt to Honda. According to MCN's Matt Birt, HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto is keen to retain Stoner as a test rider, but agreement is yet to be reached.
Stoner's return to testing will inevitably fuel speculation that he may return to racing at some point in the future. However, the chances of that happening appear to be zero. Those who know Stoner personally report that he is entirely happy in his retirement, dividing his time between his family, fishing and racing RC cars. Stoner's posts on various social media networks confirm the impression that the Australian is enjoying having a normal family life, and watching his daughter grow up.
After the test, HRC issued a press release complete with photographs, which appears below:
Casey Stoner completes two-day test in Motegi
Two-time MotoGP World Champion, Casey Stoner, has finished his two day test in Japan with Honda Racing Corporation – the first time back on a MotoGP machine since October last year.
Yesterday morning, Casey took to the 4.801km circuit located amongst the vast natural beauty of the northern Kanto district and scene of Honda’s recent 2014 World Championship clinching race, just a few weeks ago. The weather was kind and the intense testing programme reached it’s conclusion this afternoon after a full two days. Casey spent time testing the 2015 Honda RC213V machine on the current specification Bridgestone tyres testing various items including engine development and different setups. He also spent time on the 2016 Michelin tyres.
“It took some time to get used to riding the bike again after a year off it! But everything felt good, I got back into the swing of things pretty quickly and we just got on with the testing programme HRC had planned. Day one went pretty well, testing both Marc and Dani’s setups on the 2015 prototype machines and analysing these side by side we found some interesting differences and useful data. We also did some engine development and some other new items Honda brought for this test. Then today we spent some time on the Michelin tyres for 2016. All in all it was very positive two-day test and we completed a lot of laps.”
Photos courtesy of Aki Kusudo