Casey Stoner cuts return Ducati MotoGP laps
Casey Stoner has returned to the seat of a Ducati MotoGP bike for the first time in over five years.
The 30-year-old Australian has kicked off his new development role with the Italian squad during a two-day private test at Malaysia’s Sepang circuit.
Ducati development rider Michele Pirro is also on track this weekend, turning laps with the new GP16 ahead of Monday’s start to official pre-season testing at the venue.
Stoner last rode a Ducati MotoGP machine at the 2010 season finale in Valencia, before switching to Honda and eventually quitting racing two seasons later.
Retiring to Australia, Stoner continued as an occasional test rider for Honda over recent seasons, but recently split with the manufacturer due to feeling “under utilised”.
Stoner’s 2007 season remains the only MotoGP title for Ducati, which continues this season with Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso as its full-time riders.
“I honestly didn’t know what to expect, but the whole team was fantastic,” said Stoner of his first day back on a Ducati.
“I was welcomed in the best way and we worked well together.
“I still need a little more time to return to a competitive level and find the right feeling because I haven’t ridden a MotoGP bike for a year and haven’t been on a race bike for six months.
“But it was a positive first day, we immediately found a good feeling with the bikes and tyres, quicker than I would have expected.
“We have many things to try and I still have to get used to the bike, but overall I’m happy.
“The Desmosedici GP has great potential and I hope to be able to give the right feedback to Gigi and the Ducati engineers to help the two Andreas get some good results this year.
“I’m happy and a bit surprised with my lap time and I hope to improve it further tomorrow.
“It was great to be working with Gabriel Conti again together with Marco Palmerini and Gigi Dall’Igna, who have all proven true professionals today.”
Stoner has confirmed that Ducati will provide him the opportunity to make a wildcard race return this year, but is yet to decide whether he will take up the offer.
Australia’s current MotoGP hope Jack Miller will meanwhile be absent from the Sepang testing due to his broken leg.
The Townsville native fractured his right tibia and fibula during a motocross training incident two weeks ago.
Miller’s MARC VDS team expects the 21-year-old to be back in action for the second official test at Phillip Island, starting on February 17.