Official: Casey Stoner to leave Ducati

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Ducati has confirmed that Casey Stoner will quit the Bologna factory at the end of the 2010 MotoGP world championship.

In a move widely anticipated since the second race of the campaign in Jerez, the 24-year-old will move to Honda for 2011.

Speaking on Honda's official announcement, HRC Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto said: "We are very pleased that Casey will join Honda again next year. Clearly he is one of the top riders in MotoGP and he will bring valuable speed and experience to our team.

"In the factory Honda squad we already have two very strong and experienced riders in Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso who are performing very well and currently hold second and third positions in the 2010 World Championship.

"HRC hopes also to retain these two riders for next year - giving us what would be a truly formidable line-up."

The Australian’s departure now paves the way for nine-times world champion Valentino Rossi to make a dramatic transfer from Fiat Yamaha to partner American Nicky Hayden next season.

Stoner’s switch to ride a factory Honda RC212V have been rumoured right from the end of last season when it was revealed that team boss Livio Suppo was moving to take up a management role with HRC.

Many thought then the Italian’s primary role was to secure the signature of Stoner for 2011, with Honda desperate to end its barren run in the premier class.

The Japanese factory has only won one world title since 2003 and as yet hasn’t claimed a single world championship in the 800cc era.

Stoner’s decision to quit Ducati ends a golden chapter in the history of the Italian manufacturer.

The Australian was fourth choice when he was signed to ride the first ever Desmosedici 800cc machine for 2007.

He created history by winning the first ever 800cc Grand Prix in Qatar and dominated the 2007 campaign with a further nine victories to inflict a heavy defeat on Italian legend Valentino Rossi.

His 2007 title success made him the second youngest MotoGP world champion behind Freddie Spencer and it was the first triumph for a European manufacturer in over three decades.

Stoner’s hopes of a successful title defence were ended by successive crashes in Brno and Misano in 2008 and he ended the season needing major career saving surgery on his left wrist after a troubled second half to the campaign.

And his title challenge never seriously got going in 2009, even though he won the season’s opening race in Qatar for the third year in succession.

He won Ducati’s first ever race on home soil at Mugello but his title challenge was ruined by a mid-season illness that forced him to miss three races in Brno, Indianapolis and Misano.

The sabbatical prompted wild speculation that Stoner had quit but he returned to win in Phillip Island and Sepang, taking his victory tally with Ducati to 20.

The former LCR Honda rider has also failed to mount a serious title challenge in 2010 on the much-improved factory GP10 machine.

Featuring a smoother Big Bang engine, Stoner has yet to win in the opening seven races and is a massive 98-points adrift of dominant Spaniard Jorge Lorenzo in the world championship standings.

He has scored third places in the last two races at Assen and Catalunya, taking his podium tally with Ducati to 15.

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt