Sunday, July 11

CONFIRMED: STONER TO HONDA!

By MICHAEL ESDAILE


AFTER spending the past few MotoGP races clamped to the rear wheel of Dani Pedrosa's Repsol Honda, and watching it squirt away out of corners, 2007 World MotoGP Champion Casey Stoner will ride in the factory Honda squad next year.

And, it may well be a three-man team as Honda has said it hopes to retain both Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso in 2011.

Stoner's move makes it only the second time in his career he has raced a Honda four-stroke. In his rookie MotoGP season in 2006 (the last year of the more rider-friendly 990cc machines), Stoner raced a Honda RC211V for the Italian LSC team, scoring pole position at Losail only his second race on the V5 Honda, then setting the early pace before over-working his rear Michelin and drifting back to finish fifth.

There were plenty of critics of the Aussie's go for broke style, which saw him crash several times in the 2006 season, but still finish eighth in the points table in his first season.

“We are very pleased that Casey will join Honda again next year,” said Honda Racing Corporation (HRC) Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto on July 8.

“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.”

At this stage, it seems the current 80cc V4 Honda is getting the best longevity of the four brands currently contesting the MotoGP championship. Word is Pedrosa and Dovizioso have only used two of the six engines in their allocation for the season while some other riders are already onto their fourth engine.

SUPPO PLEASED

Meantime, HRC marketing director (and former Marlboro Ducati team boss) Livio Suppo believes Stoner's move to Honda will reinvigorate the 2007 world champion.

Honda's history of MotoGP success will appeal to Stoner, suggested Suppo - who also expects the Australian's so far winless 2010 season to improve so he can leave Ducati on a high.

"Stoner is fired up and can't wait to begin the new adventure," Suppo told Gazzetta dello Sport.
"We strongly believe in him and I'm certain that before coming with us he will give Ducati more satisfaction.


"Here he will find a team that has won 14 titles over 27 years. It will be good for him to change environment."