Honda: Door always open for Stoner return
Motorcycling giant Honda says that it will re-sign recently retired rider Casey Stoner in a heartbeat should the Australian’s passion for MotoGP ever return.
Stoner hung up his leathers at the end of the 2012 season, allegedly knocking back a $15 million per year deal from Honda to continue racing.
The 27-year-old has yet to confirm any future racing plans but is expected to move into V8 Supercars’ second-tier Dunlop Series with category benchmark squad Triple Eight.
Far from resenting Stoner’s decision to walk out on its MotoGP program, the Honda Racing Corporation’s vice president Shuhei Nakamoto says the two-time world champion could slide straight back into the team should he wish to.
“Casey is a rider I really love. I couldn’t imagine anything better than racing with him,” said Nakamoto.
“We were constantly shocked that the bikes we had made could go so fast when Casey was in the saddle. When Casey is confident and relaxed about his riding, there is nobody in MotoGP who can come close.
“We held a farewell party for him on the Monday night after the Valencia GP. After the party was over, the two of us stayed on, chatting, and I found I couldn’t control my tears. I really felt so sad about him leaving MotoGP.
“The following day I was asked by a number of Casey’s friends what I said to him that night. When I asked why they wanted to know, they said that Casey, who had never wavered until then in his decision to retire, had said “maybe after all I should keep on racing…”
“Right from the first day Casey came to ride for Repsol Honda, pretty much every day he came up with something new that astonished us. I don’t know of any other rider that is such fun to work with.
“I hope he quickly recovers from his injury, and if he ever decides to come back he will find a warm welcome waiting. I told him that’s always on offer.”
Nakamoto also revealed that Stoner, who announced his retirement in April, 2012, first informed Honda of his plan to quit as early as October the previous year.
“It was after he won the Australian GP to secure the championship (that Casey first spoke of retirement),” he said.
“He still had one more year to run on his contract with us, so he said he would ride for Honda in 2012, but it was quite a shock to hear he wanted to retire.
“Ever since the season began, he kept saying he wanted to make his decision public. Naturally, we really wanted him to continue with us and repeatedly tried to persuade him to reconsider, but Casey’s mind was made up.
“It was at Round Four in France that he finally got his way and announced his plans during the Thursday Press Conference. I was OK with that, since I thought it would motivate him to win his final championship and retire in a blaze of glory.
“Unfortunately it didn’t turn out like that, but he still had a great final season.”
Stoner has been replaced in the factory Honda team for 2013 by 19-year-old Spaniard Marc Marquez, who last year won the Moto2 world title in dominant fashion.