The Madness Begins: Italian Press Reporting Stoner Has Signed With Honda

Even before the 2010 MotoGP season began, it was clear that with the contracts of Valentino Rossi, Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner all coming to an end at the end of 2010, this year's silly season - the insanity of speculation, rumor and intrigue surrounding which rider will be going where from 2011 onwards - was going to be one of the most fevered in years. The background hum of rumors had already started last year, but now, the opening salvo has been fired in the Great Rider War of 2010.

At least, according to the excitable Italian press, that is. The Italian broadcaster Sportmediaset is reporting that Casey Stoner is the first domino to fall, having reportedly signed a contract with Honda for next season at Jerez. According to Sportmediaset, the move came about as a result of Stoner's close relationship with Livio Suppo, the former Ducati manager who moved over to HRC at the start of the 2010 season, to help Honda raise its sponsorship.

As plausible as the story is, there are a great many reasons to treat this report with healthy dose of scepticism. It is certainly true that Stoner's father and manager Colin was present at Jerez, and Stoner senior made no secret of the fact that he spoke to both Honda and Ducati at the Spanish MotoGP round. With all four of MotoGP's Fantastic Four available for next season, paddock consensus is that - as one insider put it - "you don't want to be the last one to jump." And Honda have made no secret of their interest in reviewing their current line up of Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso, and examining the other options available. In an interview to be published later this week, Yamaha Racing boss Lin Jarvis told that he expected Honda to make "early and aggressive" moves on the transfer market, which the swoop for Stoner would certainly fulfil.

However, earlier reports in the British press suggested that no deal had been done at Jerez. "We all know that [...] everbody will speak with everyone," Livio Suppo told Motorcycle News' Matt Birt last week. When contacted, Honda declined to comment on the situation, merely repeating Suppo's point that all of the top four riders would be out of contract at the end of the year. Ducati has also made it extremely clear that they are very keen to hang on to Casey Stoner, and making a decision after just two races would seem to be extremely premature.

Perhaps the clearest reason for treating the story on Sportmediaset with a couple of bushels of salt is that the report seems merely to be a vehicle for planting yet another Rossi-to-Ducati rumor. Though the headline is all about Casey Stoner's move to Honda, at least half of the story goes on to discuss a possible switch to Ducati by Valentino Rossi. According to Sportmediaset, Ducati have offered the 9 time world champion a two-year deal full of guarantees about both technical support and of Ducati's philosophical approach, which was the reason that Rossi turned down the Italian factory back in 2003, feeling that the focus was too much on the technology and not on the rider, an attitude which had persuaded him to leave Honda in the first place. Rossi would provide Ducati with a response by Mugello, on the first weekend of June.

Whether Casey Stoner really has signed with Honda remains to be seen, and will no doubt become clear in 10 days time when the MotoGP paddock reconvenes at Le Mans. The reports, though plausible, still seem just a little too much driven by Italian wishful thinking, rather than sober fact. As one paddock insider put it, "This is the problem with having two weeks between races. It leaves journalists with too much time on their hands..."

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The timing is more surprising than the annoucement itself.

But, IMO, if this comes true, it's easier to picture J-Lo at Ducati instead of Rossi. Rossi doesn't have the age or entusiasm he had back in 2004. Ducati wouldn't lure him. But they do have the money to lure Lorenzo and it almost worked out last year.

I wonder what would happen to Mini-P. He still is an outright alien and it took only two races to put things in order in the HRC garage.

I should imagine Labour wants to do a deal with Casey. Ahh back room shenanigans, what will become of it all. I reckon Ducati will build a better litre bike than Honda for 2012. Casey is happy with his GP10. There exists no good reason to jump ship.

An Elvis sighting or 'alien ate my baby' story would be as believable.

Stoner is a known quantity on the ducati. They have their winner and a decent back up in Hayden. I think ducati is stable.

Lorenzo to honda...wait for it!

Spies should move up to Factory and the status quo should reign at Ducati and Honda (if they are both smart). I selfishly hope that Rossi holds out too long and is left with no room at the inns. And the vacuum left by Capirossi will be the perfect fit. Then when he takes a Suzuki to victory, no one will ever doubt his talent and his team's ability to make a bike fast. If Capirossi is to retire, as he's at least hinted, who else would fill his shoes? Bautista is surely not ready. Start saving your pennies, Mr. Denning! I want to see another moment like South Africa in 2004.

Suzuki carnt afford Rossi..Suzuki could run 5 bike a year on what Rossi gets paid.
He would go to F1 before Suzuki.
At least the M1 was runnig at the front with Biaggi before Rossi jumped on it. Not trying to finish last like the Suzukis, the fact that Rizla gets main Sponsorship at a small sum of 2.5 million EURos doesnt help the Rosii to Suzuki.
Biaggi might still get in to Motogp again..???

I agree it's unlikely. But a guy can dream.

I was thinking that Checca would be welcome back a bit easier than Biaggi. Though neither are renown for their development skills. Maybe if Haslam takes a WSBK title for Suzuki they'll want to give him a 2nd try at Grand Prix Racing. Could anyone see Kalio and Bautista on the same team? If Capirossi does retire, Maybe a Moto2-genius will get the nod. Or maybe they'll welcome back Hopkins with open arms?

The silly season is much more fun at this end of the grid.

It may not be as hard for Biaggi to come back to MotoGP as many think...if he comes back with Aprilia in 2012. Yes, it's not likely...but it could happen.

I read somewhere yesterday (I think that Biaggi is already looking to extend his contract with Aprilia for another two years, while Aprilia is due to meet with Dorna within the next couple months to discuss their potential involvement in MotoGP in 2012. Reportedly Biaggi will be 41 yrs. old by then, but maybe he just wants that last, final shot at MotoGP before wrapping up his career. If any of this is actually true....and if he also happens to bring Aprilia a WSBK title this year and/or next, it would only help his cause.

Everyone talks about Italy going bananas if Rossi ends up on a Ducati in MotoGP. I imagine Biaggi/Aprilia in MotoGP vs. a Rossi/Ducati combo would make most of the motorcycle road-racing fandom crap their pants in complete excitement... :-)

Yamaha made one podium in 2003, and it sure as hell wasn't a win.
Biaggi was riding a honda that year.
Negotiation strength will depend heavily on championship position at the time of signing.
At least this site is focussing on racing, rather than degenerating into the "stoner is a pansy, rossi is a fag" discussions on some other sites.

Oh, well I just cannot guess why any Italians would want that to happen?!?!?? Whether Stoner goes to Honda or not. It may not affect that decision. But I could put money on if Rossi feels like retiring, he may seriously consider.....or have a much weaker stance on saying no to riding a Ducati to finish out his career. He would not get any of the issues Melandri complained about. And I bet with the mixture of his specific feedback mixed with Ducati's desire to have arguably the greatest Champion on their bike. They, Ducati, would do everything he asks of them so they could win. The passion would be overflowing in that camp. It would be an overload in Italy if that day ever comes. I just can't write off the distinct possiblility of that move. After Rossi moved to Yamaha back in '04, I now believe that anything is possible. Especially if he starts to feel like Lorenzo is getting better treatment than him.

I think a Mr J Burgess will have a large say in weather Rossi goes Red or not. I really dont think he'd make the jump without Jerry.

Rossi stays at Yamaha
Stoner moves to Honda
Lorenzo to Ducati
Dani to Yamaha either with Rossi or at Tech 3