Ducati: Stoner likely to have first tests in Sepang and Qatar
The return of Casey Stoner to Ducati as a test rider was rubber stamped late last month but Ducati are still to confirm when the double world champion will make his return to the track.
Senior team officials, Paulo Ciabatti and Davide Tardozzi, both told MCN that the they expect to formalise his testing schedule soon.
"Casey won't test with the other riders," said Ciabatti. "The first reason is that we will probably not have enough new bikes to put six bikes on track before the season starts. So we have planned so far ideally to have a couple of tests before the Qatar race. We still need to finalize the dates but they will probably be at Sepang and Qatar."
As a double world champion Stoner is one of the few retired in the world who is still young enough to be a top rider and talented enough to be capable of pushing a MotoGP machine to its limits. For Ducati the coup of signing him is not being underestimated. With testing for Ducati, Honda and Yamaha limited to five days with their official riders the benefits of having Stoner on board could be magnified in 2016.
"We had a positive season in MotoGP but even though we start in a fantastic way, we went a little bit in the wrong direction," said Ciabatti. "The 2016 season begun after Valencia and we are now limited to five test days with official riders so we have four more to go next year. Obviously having the possibility to have such an extremely talented rider like Casey testing for us next year is going to help us. Casey has won races, two MotoGP titles and so we think he can help us to speed up the development of the bike. In a year when we are limited to the number of tests we can do with factory riders I think Casey can be a great help."
For Tardozzi having the feedback offered by Stoner should be a key step in improving the package of the GP16 but he is also keen to ensure that Ducati doesn't put Stoner to do too much.
"We think that Casey’s feedback could be important," said Tardozzi. "If he pushes in the tests like he knows how to do, he is welcome and we are very, very happy, but this is up to him how he approaches the tests. We won’t force him to do too much. Whether he wants to race or not as a wildcard is up to him. We have scheduled some tests just to understand the bike and see if he’s confident"
The Australian has been a Honda test rider in recent years but the return to Ducati will see him also take on a role as a brand ambassador for the manufacturer.
"Casey joining back at Ducati as a test rider, an ambassador for the future, are good news for Ducati," Ciabatti told MCN. "Hopefully these together with positive kind of sales for the company and the new products we will pave the road to good development of Ducati as a brand."
Stoner will also have the opportunity to test the World Superbike machine.