Exclusive: Casey Stoner to test factory Honda in Japan
22 July 2013 14:59
Double world champion Casey Stoner will make a dramatic return to MotoGP action next month when he tests a factory Honda RC213V at the Twin Ring Motegi track in Japan, MCN can reveal.
The outspoken but blindingly fast Australian, who retired from MotoGP immediately after the final race of 2012 in Valencia last November, will take part in a two-day test on August 6-7 at the Honda-owned track.
An official announcement from HRC confirming the testing plan will be released tomorrow (Tuesday).
The test is one of four scheduled over the coming weeks that Stoner will fit in around his V8 Supercar commitments in Australia.
Stoner’s speed and experience will be used to help HRC technical staff on development of the 2014 factory RC213V.
And Honda insiders say he will also evaluate the performance potential of a new production 1000cc racer that the Japanese factory will make available next year.
The forthcoming test session is certainly not just Stoner turning up for a quick play on a 260bhp 1000cc machine.
His former crew chief Cristian Gabbarini, who is now a vital part of Repsol Honda as technical supervisor, is attending and Ohlins is understood to have prepped a set of 2012 spec forks to be shipped to Japan direct from last weekend's Laguna Seca MotoGP race in California.
And the bike he will ride will be set-up identical to how he raced an RC213V to fifth place at Motegi last season.
Stoner switched to four wheels after walking away from MotoGP last year, the 27-year-old becoming disillusioned with the direction of the sport.
He also indicated he wanted to spend more time with his young family at home in Australia when he made the bombshell announcement about his retirement plans on the eve of the French Grand Prix at Le Mans almost 15 months ago.
News of his surprise return to MotoGP action will trigger intense speculation about his future plans on two wheels.
Ever since the 2007 and 2011 world champion walked away from MotoGP, there has been a constant stream of rumours that he will make wild card appearances in his home race at Phillip Island and Motegi in October.
Speculation has also been rife that both Ducati and Honda have been talking to Stoner in recent weeks about trying to tempt him back into MotoGP full-time in the future.
The testing plan will do little to douse the flames about the wild card appearances, which would come at a critical stage of the world championship, with Laguna Seca winner Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa potentially battling it out with reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo for the 2013 crown.
HRC though has made it crystal clear that Stoner will not race as a wild card in his home round on October 20 or a week later in Honda’s home race in Japan.
Both races don’t clash with his car racing exploits in Australia and many were hoping that Stoner would step out of retirement to attempt to win an incredible seventh successive race on home soil.
Stoner won 38 races for Ducati and Repsol Honda and he also won seven races in the 250 and 125cc classes.
He is regarded by many as one of the most naturally gifted riders in history and unrivalled for raw speed.