Casey Stoner got the first testing miles of his return to Ducati under his belt on Saturday. The Australian started slowly and steadily doing a lot of short runs to get a feel for the Ducati Desmosedici GP15, on which he spent most of the day, before upping the pace later in the afternoon. Journalists present at the test said Stoner looked a little stiff in his early laps, not getting either elbow or knee down, but soon started to relax, and look more like his old self.
He had every reason to be wary: the last time Stoner rode a race bike on the road was during the Suzuka 8 Hours, where a throttle cable malfunction saw him thrown from the bike, injuring his scapula and tibia in the process. Furthermore, this was his first time on a MotoGP bike for a year, his first time riding the Ducati GP15 - a very different beast indeed to the GP10, the last Ducati Stoner raced - and his first time on the Michelins. Despite that, he told reporters he was very happy with how the test went. "I haven't ridden one of these bikes in over a year," Stoner said. "Haven't ridden Michelins. New bike. Everything. So I'm really surprised by the end of the day how we got on with it."
Stoner praised the both the power and the power delivery of the Desmosedici. It had "grunt everywhere," Stoner said. He was also positive about the aerodynamics and the stability of the bike under braking. All of the bike was very good, and he had been surprised at just how comfortable he had felt on the bike.
Stoner was also asked about the spec electronics, and how they felt. He had been impressed at just how good the spec software already was, he said. The electronics felt as good as they were just a couple of years ago, rather than the eight or nine which Valentino Rossi had said. Stoner felt that if anything, the electronics were still too good. What was needed was to go back to the electronics of 2006, where they have very limited influence.
No official times were released, though Stoner was apparently not too far off the pace. The fastest lap recorded by Peter McLaren of Crash.net was 2'03, but McLaren said he had only sampled a few laps, not every single lap which the Australian put in. Italian Sky TV commentator Guido Meda claimed that Stoner's fastest lap was a 2'02.1, set on the GP15 using old tires previously used by Ducati's other test rider Michele Pirro. 2'02.1 is entirely respectable for Stoner's first time back on the bike after such a long time away, and on a machine which is entirely new to him. The race lap record is a 2'00.606 set by Jorge Lorenzo during the 2015 race, while the pole record is held by Dani Pedrosa, who set a 1'59.053. During testing last year, Marc Marquez set an unofficial record of 1'58.867, but that was after three days of testing, and on Bridgestone tires.
Stoner was due to continue his test on Sunday, but a last-minute change of plan after a debrief with Ducati engineers sees him sitting out the second day of the private test. Instead, Stoner will take part in the official IRTA test at Sepang, due to run from 1st to 3rd February. Ducati decided they had other things that needed testing on Sunday and Monday, and that was best left to Michele Pirro.
Below is the press release from Ducati on the first day of private testing with Michele Pirro and Casey Stoner:
Stoner returns to the track at Sepang for his first run as Ducati Team test-rider
Casey Stoner returned to the track today on the Ducati Desmosedici GP of the Ducati Team at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia. It was a welcome return for the Australian rider, two-time MotoGP World Champion, who had not ridden a Ducati since the Valencia round in 2010. Stoner completed a total of 54 laps on the 2015 model Desmosedici GP machine, setting a best time of 2m02.1s on his final run late in the afternoon.
Michele Pirro also went out on track this morning, but just for a few laps. The Italian rider tested a 2016-spec Desmosedici GP bike fully equipped with instruments and sensors and also carried out a fuel consumption test.
Both Ducati test-riders will be back on track tomorrow for the last day of private testing, before the official IRTA test that runs thru February 1-3.
Casey Stoner (Ducati Desmosedici GP #27)
“It’s been a really good experience today with the Ducati Team. I wasn’t too sure what to expect but everybody has been fantastic, welcoming me and working with me to try and get the best out of myself and this bike. I need some time to get back to speed and get the feeling back, because I haven’t ridden a MotoGP bike for one year and any bike at all for six months. It was a very productive first day, we got comfortable with the bike and the tyres a lot more quickly than I thought I would. We’ve got a lot of things to test and get myself a little bit more acquainted with the bike but generally I’m very happy. The Desmosedici GP has a lot of potential, hopefully we can give the right input and help the two Andreas to try and achieve something great this year. I’m pretty happy and surprised with my lap time to be honest, hopefully the next day we can be a bit more comfortable after sleeping on it. It’s been fantastic working with Gabriele (Conti) again and with Marco (Palmerini) and Gigi (Dall’Igna): everyone has been really professional. So far, so good!”
Michele Pirro (Ducati Desmosedici GP #51)
“Today I only did a few laps because the schedule only included a test of electronic components followed by one for fuel economy, so once I had finished my work, the team concentrated on Casey’s debut. Tomorrow we’ll do a few more things before the first of the three days of official tests that get underway on Monday. The feeling is good and even on Wednesday we managed to do a good job. I am sure that we can get some good results, and having tested both Iannone’s and Dovizioso’s bikes I feel confident, despite the fact that the track conditions here are not very good.”