Two Luxury Testers: Nicky Hayden Tests Panigale At Mugello, Casey Stoner At Motegi For Honda

Having a test rider who can put in a competitive lap time is important to factories when they are developing their bikes. Having a world champion who can match the pace of the fastest men on the planet is sheer luxury. Two factories find themselves in this situation, with vastly different purposes and outcome. Nicky Hayden and Casey Stoner are testing radically different bikes on nearly opposite sides of the planet, to help their respective (former) employers.

Nicky Hayden has been testing Ducati's Panigale 1199R World Superbike machine at Mugello on Wednesday, the American both providing development input on the troublesome machine, as well as using it as an opportunity to test the WSBK waters and decide whether he wishes to switch from MotoGP. Ducati are keen to retain the services of the American, and are reported to have offered him a very generous offer to race the Panigale in World Superbikes with the Alstare Ducati team. Ducati need a rider who is fast, diligent and can put in the effort to help move the Panigale project forward.

Hayden is undecided on the offer, however. His main motivation, he keeps telling reporters whenever he's asked about his future (which is every day at the moment), is to have as competitive a package as possible. On the basis of the results achieved by Ayrton Badovini and Carlos Checa, the Ducati Panigale is not such a package, prompting Carlos Checa to seek another world championship elsewhere, with rumors linking the Spaniard to a ride at Kawasaki alongside Tom Sykes. Hayden is very much in demand at the moment: American Honda  are keen to put the Kentucky Kid on a production Honda at LCR Honda, but so far, they have not managed to raise the full budget necessary. Hayden has also been talking to Forward Racing to take one of the Yamaha M1 non-MSMA entries for 2014, which should be a competitive package from the start. And Aprilia are known to be very keen to secure the services of the American, as they believe he would be a powerful marketing tool for the entire Piaggio group. He has been offered a seat on the ART machine in the Aspar squad, possible replacing Randy de Puniet, though if Aleix Espargaro leaves for Forward, then De Puniet could retain his seat.

Meanwhile in Japan, Casey Stoner is testing the production Honda. Or at least he would be, if it weren't raining at the Japanse circuit. Stoner has a two-day test scheduled to continue work on the 2014 RC213V and put the production racer through its paces. Rain on the first day has seen Stoner sitting in the pits waiting for the weather to clear, as there is nothing to be learned about the state of development of a motorcycle by taking it out in the rain. A dry track, and someone who can take the bike to the limits is what is needed. Stoner has been contracted to test the bikes for Honda for 2013, with HRC keen to continue the collaboration in 2014 as well, as having a test rider who can push the bike so far that it runs into the same problems it would encounter in a racing situation is invaluable. In the early part of 2012, when both Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner were struggling with chatter, neither of Honda's test riders could replicate the problem. They were, quite simply, too slow.

Though Stoner's return to testing is likely to once again kick off more speculation about a wild card appearance later this year, or even a return to racing in 2014, reports from Stoner's inner circle reject any idea of him coming back to racing. Though reliable reports from Spain suggest that Carmelo Ezpeleta rejected an application by HRC for Stoner to wild card at Phillip Island this year, there is no one in Stoner's circle who believes he ever seriously entertained racing as a wild card. If anything Stoner looks more likely to do even less racing next year: the Australian is currently racing in the Dunlop Series, the support series to the Australian V8 Supercars, but the media commitments for Stoner in that series are just as onerous as they are in MotoGP, and he gets even less track time, as racing is cut short in the Dunlop series to ensure the V8 Supercar TV schedule remains intact. Stoner has suggested a couple of times that he might take a year of from racing entirely, and see where his interests lie after that. A role as a test rider for Honda is ideal in that regard: he gets to ride the best motorcycle in the world around a race track at very great speed, with no media or other commitments, and can come and go as he pleases. It is all the parts which he loves, without all the parts he hates. The only thing missing is competition. Whether he can live without that, or find that in other areas of his life remains to be seen.

Back to top


... with Stoner. He may vociferously deny ever coming back now... but I seem to remember him vociferously denying he was going to retire, and bashing the media while doing so... right before he retired :)

It'd be nice to have him back tho...

well... this is my personal opinion , but, i think casey stoner will come out of retirement to race against marquez. i think he misses the racing to much..again, this is my own personal observation of the above person mentioned

Nicky to SBK with Duckati??? He'll be fighting with Carlos Checa for sure, a bad decision.

As for Stoner, back to motogp will put him nowhere near Marquez, he'll need his winning mechanics (of whom now with marc) to do that and of course an identical bike. emm... also some swallowing own spit.

Burgess crew chiefs for Stoner at Yamaha. Problem solved.

And if (and its a big if) Honda had failed to win the title by the time Stoner was hypothetically contemplating returning, HRC may well offer Stoner whatever crew he likes to return and race for them. After all they offered him unprecedented pay not to leave in the first place.

Very smart of Hayden to actually test the 1199 before making a decision on his future! Money aside though... Ducati is not the way to go presently. Let somebody else waste their time/possible injuries getting the 1199 up to speed before Audi scrap the whole bike anyway! Hayden should stay in MotoGP... period! Hayden should manage a 1-year contract open for upgrades later. I'd love to see him back on a Honda, where it all started for him. If things don't work out in MotoGP after 2014... then go to WSB with Honda to develop the RVF1000rr that Honda has delayed. Honda is going back to Formula-1 in 2015 which may have slowed the release of the new production bikes. STONER? Casey tells half-truths all the time... he doesn't give the entire story when he makes his press-releases. Stoner wanted to race as a wildcard but got REJECTED... so he states that he wont' be doing any. He neglects to say that he/HRC wants to though. I hope the rejection makes him mad enough to come out of retirement if Carmelo allows it. Dorna/Carmelo may be a bit pissed @ Stoner for his rash comments. Besides... I wouldn't want anybody ruining the Rise of Marquez either if I was Carmelo. Stoner may haveta it down with Carmelo face-to-face and talk things out...

Damn right about "if you were Carmelo", if I was Carmelo "I wouldn't want anyone.. Yes, anyone too stop marquez, coz I desperately need him to replace rossi quick! at any cost"

but you are wrong. HRC got rejected, wildcards never made it to the rider.

A lot of mixed truths im reading.

People have short memories sometimes, only able to remember the most recent amazing performance they saw. Marquez's pole to beat Lorenzo's time by .1 was impressive, but Stoner used take pole over the same guys by half a second sometimes, like at Mugello in 2011, the year he set the equal all time record for poles in a season. No doubt Marquez has some serious speed but I'd like to see them on track together before proclaiming him quicker than Stoner.

by Machine. I also do not think Marquez would be faster than Stoner. As a matter of fact i think if CS wanted to he "seemed" to more often than not have 3 or 4 tenths up his sleeve.
This is just my opinion. Marc Marquez is some kind of talent that maybe we have not seen before. I also believe Marquez would beat Casey, and maybe Casey might take a couple off MM.

However, Stoner imo is the fastest by quite a bit.

Anyone watch the movie Faster or fastest, the Motogp film of 2012. He was barely mentioned, was he just too fast ? well i dont know, because he's always proclaimed "i could have gone faster" and i do believe him.

No fanboy here just love the way some riders flog these 250 odd bhp machines over a 20 lap race.

Looking very forward to seeing Redding in the prem class.

Do you mean like Marquez did at Indy? When he had .5 on everybody and beat Pedrosa's old pole record by .855? Yeah, he can do that too. Imagine what he'll do once he gets a few races under his belt.

retires will we have to shut up about him, kinda like those we dont speak of. CS27 is still relevant as he has 2 world championships and continues testing for HRC.

What is the taboo about mentioning CS27 ????

I dont get it.

It's the fact that Stoner retired before he could be measured against the next crop of fast guys - like Marquez. Say what you want about Rossi but at least he had the balls to test himself against the next two generations of fast guys. Stoner didnt. So saying he would/wouldn't be faster really is 100 percent irrelevant. Why even bother with it?

before he could be measured????

I think you've missed a bit of what im on about and that's my fault because my use of words is not quite up to speed with some others on this site.

I knew Rossi had "balls" in 96 when he started showing "balls", so im also not sure what you are saying.

No problem i like reading all posts, and people's opinions/views. Positive/Negative its all good.

And yeah, when MM93 gets a few under his belt????? he's already winning and at number 1.

Well didn't he? He retired before Marquez or Espargaro (Pol) or Redding or Vinales or any of the new crop of fast guys came up to GP to race. So saying that Stoner would have/wouldn't have beaten this guy or this guy is baseless and really pointless - we won't know because Stoner quit before he was challenged by them.

There's always sort or a "revisionist history" in sports, where the guys playing now are better than the guys who played it before - so the guys Rossi beat when he was on top, we look back now and say "Meh, they weren't that good. Biaggi? Gibernau? Melandri? These guys today would destroy them." We see Rossi race Lorenzo and Pedrosa and Marquez and Stoner and see him not doing as well as he used to and Rossi's accomplishments are tarnished. And we forget that age slows you down. We assume Rossi's skills are the same now at 34 that they were at 24, so obviously the guys he beat when he was 24 weren't that good. But that's not true - go back and watch some of the races of the guys Rossi beat. They were plenty fast.

And it goes the other way too. There are those guys who go out early and never get to the point where their skills are diminished and they're not tested against the younger, faster breed. And because of that, they become this unbeatable legend that no one can ever top. But that's also not true.

So we play this game of would've/should've/could've and it's all pointless. Why even bring Stoner into the conversation? Anything we say about him in relation to today's racing is pure speculation.

not much for me to disagree with what you've said ghostdog.

CS27 gets the comments as does NH69 because the article is about them.

game. more a sport and many variables
within the motorcycle world. Ive seen great riders come and go and come back and fail.

I couldn't give 2 hoots if CS comes back or not, i just like watching him ride a bike same MM and VR and the rest.

SPend most weekends dirt track but always looking for track day excuse.

You follow riders, guess i went through that with Gardner and then the domination of Doohan.

Today im happy with all of it and take great interest in riders, bikes, teams and the politics of organisation.

Was a time when i got so worked up about riders, results, crap deals for riders i liked and all sorts.

Now its just fun again, no argument.

your comment about Stoner gets 40 votes/ Stoner is history. I have seen this site to be motorcycle enthusiasts, everyone entitled to your opinion. Stoners not history and Troy Bayliss is running the second TBClassic.

Rossi might win at Misano. MM, Pedrosa's due. Lorenzo confident and CC hungry and eager to prove.

A lot going on in Motogp.

It seems clear that Nicky is held in great respect by Ducati. Perhaps he is also waiting to see if the Spies seat becomes available. He's too well-liked to use as a Stoner-esque test rider.
One last year on the MGP bike might just see it turn the corner (excuse the pun).
The fact that they have 'softened' the current 'new' engine output might be a move towards recovering the renowned Ducati 'drive' at any speed which they seem to have lost. HRC have a better balance of power and flexibility that they need to replicate.
The Panigale seems to be the reverse of the 999 - a great road bike loved by the traditionalists/916 lovers but a poor race bike.(except no-one will say they were wrong about the Panigale race bike)
If Checa has given up then Nicky needs to check the writing on the wall and his own notes from the MGP bike, because the Panigale is to WSB what the CF/frameless tech is to MGP.

The 1199 is the only Ducati to be developed outside of a factory team. Not saying that the bike is good (I do own one and love it, but it obviously needs a lot of work to be a race winner) but it has had it's development slowed by the lack of factory resources. Althea is good, and they get help from Ducati, but no way they've the same resources as the former factory team.

I'm interested to see how far off the Honda proddy racer will be. Last I heard it was say within 7% which is roughly where the CRT bikes are now.

Francis Batta's complaint is precisely that he's NOT allowed to develop the 1199R, it's being done (poorly) by the factory.

No way imo Hayden is waiting for Spies seat. He gets beat week after week by a ART so I see no reason he'd take a step backwards to a non factory team on the worst prototype bike.

Are you saying the 999 was a poor road bike? That is definitely not true. It was way better and easier as a road bike than both the 916-996-998 series AND the later 1098-1198 series. Those 1098 and 1198 were actually quite crap both as a road bike ánd a track bike in standard trim, and notoriously difficult to get right as a race bike.
I haven't ridden the Panigale, but the very different results in Superstock and Superbikes are interesting to say the least. And why was Checa so fast on the Panigale at the first round at Phillip Island this year..?

(I could read it the other way around, that you think the 999 is a great road bike but a poor race bike and the Panigale is the reverse, so a poor road bike and a great race bike, but seeing your last line that does not seem to be your opinion)

im back on the triple9. personal choice but the corner entry under hard brake is superior to 1098 imo.
Aaas said above the 999 is also a decent road bike, better than most ducati's ive ridden on a varied range of roads.


With a multi year deal with Aspar ART NH can get factory support when the team looks to up the involvement in 2015 as a factory team. Predictably this implies more involvement from Aprilia during the 2014 season in which it is likely to receive major upgrades that could make it a serious Ducati threat. The worst part for Aprilia is that they are going to have to get the spec software working for them fast. I would thoroughly enjoy watching NH make the Aprila a full step ahead of the Ducati. I'm sure the Italian fans would love this which only improves Nicky's marketability with the more drama he creates.

Like Lewis Hamilton and his move to Mercedes, sometimes you have to go to what looks like a step back, and then you may realize its strengths in other areas mean it really is capable of major steps forward.

I'd also like to say that Nicky + High Powered Bike + Bike that can actually turn = Grinning Nicky.

No matter which bike Hayden gets on (MOTOGP), he can't win on it because it isn't one of the four factory bikes (well six if you count Ducati). Not for lack of talent but lack of a first rate, top of the line factory bike. So it'll be interesting as to what he decides to do, but he ain't a gonna Win. 

Very likely. If I were Ducati I would have commissioned Michelin or Pirelli or someone to make me some tires that might work just to prove/disprove the theory. I wonder if Nicky were to take the WSBK Ducati offer if he could then test the Desmo, considering he's no longer a contracted rider in MotoGP.

If David's sources regarding Stoner's life after 2-wheels are accurate... Casey is in the same boat as Suzuki if he wishes to make a comeback! Stoner and Suzuki have said/done (negative) things to Dorna/Carmelo in a way that makes their returns very complicated for themselves. IMO, Casey should have kept his mouth closed and just took a break from MotoGP to try something different without bashing Dorna and MotoGP on his way out. Trading 2-wheels for 4-wheels without giving the car racing a real go seems to have been an impulsive reaction that he regrets in his haste. Casey's tantrums were his Achilles's heel. With all the money CS made, he should've had a sports psychologist to cope with his mental breakdowns regarding the off-track drama. So quick to look greener pastures... people often find themselves in a worse scenario. Dovi doesn't seem too happy at all with Ducati! Looking at Crutchlow's results this season compared to Dovi's, the Ducati's development is going nowhere fast. The grass isn't always greener no matter what Audi/Ducati says of their future plans. Look at how happy Rossi is to be finishing fourth after leaving Ducati.

Nicky- Dude, you've done the hard grind for Ducati for years now. It would take a great amount of faith to think results are just around the corner AND they're shoving you off possibly enjoying any such improvements THEN ask "would you like to ride our uncompetitive WSB machine?" I've often thought Nicky was the lovable Charlie Brown of GP but were he to stick with Ducati after the demotion with little chance of glory I might have to recast him as the Sisyphus of road racing. Take the best, most competitive non factory option available and show that you are head and shoulders better than everyone else on similar equipment. It's working nicely for Espargaro. Honda would be a nice choice if you then get the option to take a WSB title on the RVF1k in a year or two.

Stoner- He is ever the font filling the cups of fans and press with fevered delusions and petty bickering. Sheesh. If it's this bad on the outside I can only imagine what a crappy situation it would be to be the focus of all the hooey. For what is actually known rather than speculated I'd venture something less conspiracy theory related. Why wouldn't HRC at least lay the ground work for a possible wild card? If, (IF!) Casey were to mention in passing during one of his tests that it might be fun to do one race it would be good planning for HRC to have that chute greased & ready to give him that little nudge. Whatever! Wake me up when he shows up for a race weekend. Until that time this is like a dumb soap opera for men.

put the Panigale motor in the sweet handling 1098R chassis.

All it would take is a willingness on the part of Ducati to recognize and admit that they've gone down the same dead end road with the Panigale frame that they did with the Desmosedici.

I'm not so sure this is possible. Firstly, the 1199 engine has been developed to be a "frameless" engine from the start - packaging would likely not be possible.

Secondly, would they not have to sell it? (In order to race it in WSBK).

Effectively what you're talking about is a whole new bike - and they can't develop that overnight. The 1199 has, as far as I have understood, been a success as a road bike and therefore I can't see it being made obsolete early in it's lifecycle - especially after all of the non-recurring costs involved in developing/launching/manufacturing it.

I would love to see it happen, even if it was a single race. To see them go at it over a full season would be awesome.

Re: Nicky on the Panigale, the bike is doing ok in SuperStock trim so it may be ok with the new rules, but I'd rather see Nicky on something other than a Ducati at this point.

And if anyone wants to see Stoner rail a CBR1000RR against his Aussie V8 car (driven by Jamie Whincup) and a Formula 1 car (driven by Mark Webber), Top Gear had an Aussie special. I was very happy to see him out there. This is only a short clip, but the firewall here at work keeps me from finding the whole thing right now. if you search "Casey Stoner Top Gear" you can probably find the whole thing.

"but the media commitments for Stoner in that series are just as onerous as they are in MotoGP"

What media commitments are they, mate. Stoner is running 18th in a second string series( that most Australians know nothing about), with the best car in the field. He and his team don't have a lot to say about that. He is kept pretty busy race weekends but that would be about the extent of it. Nothing onerous about it.

He has spent much of his spare time riding off road push bikes in the U.S.

"reports from Stoner's inner circle"

Just curious Dave, who might they be? : )

Casey Stoner isn't being asked to do interviews and meet with fans because of his results in the Dunlop series. Because for a guy running around mid-pack in a support series, he is interviewed by the Australian press an awful lot. Being a retired double world champion is what causes that. He can't get from one end of the paddock to the other without being stopped many, many times by fans, journalists, photographers. This is not the quiet escape from media exposure he thought it was.

Casey Stoner would like to be treated like any other rookie in the Dunlop series. But he is being treated like a former MotoGP champion. I think he underestimated just how much attention he would continue to receive.

Casey is involved in 6 race weekends with the Dunlop series this year 2013.
So far because of his Motorcycle career and being in the Triple8 team has seen him on camera more than the winners at times. People "are" interested in what he's doing.
This year did not pan out for him as he would of liked so 2014 will more than likely be his "gap" year apart from some HRC testing(maybe 6 days out of 365).

4 wheels for 2014 ?? im not sure, but i do know he wants a YEAR off(inner circle stuff).

Best car on the grid????? Casey is driving Jamie Whincup's 2010 car(a winner) but already 3 seasons old, the car is a test mule.

I LOVE the comment someone made re the 999 and the Panigale being inversed re street vs track appreciated - astute!
I am intrigued by the Panigale and wish for it to do well. It appears under developed as of yet. HOWEVER even a lay person like me w a bit of experience on track can conclude that if feedback and sweet feel (ala the tuning fork principle) is important that the stressed member engine bridging a gap between the head and swingarm is a very limiting design. An engine flexing? And linking resonance of front and rear? W/o introducing disruptive vibrations?
Avoid that bike Nicky, all too familiar.
The 2014 Aprilia Motogp machine on the other hand, lots sounds good about it doesn't it..pneumatic valves, more fuel, lots new. Spec ECU and software rate of development could be a puzzler but I am betting it is a Ducati beater from the get go.
Yamaha engine in a Kalex w extra fuel? Also interesting.
Production Honda? Should be pretty solid out of the gates.
ALL THREE of those Motogp options look preferable to foreseeable Ducati seat time from my arm chair.
Here's to some interesting racing next season.

I'm interested to see the performance of the leased Yamaha engine bikes. Can they keep the factory bikes in sight next year ?

Question : Spec ECU - can the engineers write their own traction control strategies with this ? or do they just adjust the set traction level within the spec ECU and it has the pre-set basic algorithm there ? How "bad" is the traction control on the spec ECU basically, does it pump the tyres on exit, does it hesitate on exit, what's the scoop there, surely the factories would be investigating this before deciding ? Does the Spec-ECU have traction mapping for all conditions or is it a basic algorithm or a bit of both. The public need details on this, its getting hard to follow MotoGP rule changes. We just want to see more a 20+ bike race, not a 4/5 bike race if all 4/5 riders are fit.


[Moderator's note. This comment has been edited to remove a (perfectly reasonable) defense of Casey Stoner. I am currently deleting about 90% of comments about Stoner, Rossi and Ducati, as they add nothing to the debate, and it is a very, very old and tiresome argument. So there is no point adding them to the comments section of this article. I am truly sorry to have to do this, but if I don't, then the debate will once again descend into the kind of tedious name calling and mud slinging which it always seems to end up in. My apologies again to the posters, but it is for the greater good.]