Casey Stoner Is Made of Alien, Too

The first IRTA test of the year ended yesterday with the reigning champion Jorge Lorenzo in the leading position and the only rider capable of dropping below the 2-minute lap time. Still, this piece is not about him but about Ducati's newest test rider, MotoGP Legend and two-time World Champion Casey Stoner.
Recently back with Ducati as a brand ambassador and test rider, Stoner rode the Desmosedici GP15 at the Sepang Circuit in Malaysia, but he was not looking for the last bit of grip or speed. His sessions were more of a "welcome back" so he can get acquainted with a Ducati motorcycle that's changed quite a lot since 2010, when he last rode a Borgo Panigale machine.

As for the differences from the bike he used to win the 2007 MotoGP championship, they are probably too big to even mention them. Still, on the last day of the Sepang test, Casey Stoner was the best of the entire Ducati field, despite being a bit rusty, on a machine he only met days ago, and using all-new Michelin tires.

Stoner ended the day in the fifth position, with Lorenzo, Rossi, Marquez and Crutchlow behind him. 1.490 seconds adrift Lorenzo's incredible 1'59.580, Stoner was 0.514 seconds off Rossi's pace and almost on par with the other two riders ahead of him.

His best lap was a 2'01.070, and it puts him ninth on the combined times for the three days. Again, on the 2015 bike and without any particular efforts to find the ultimate setup for the race. So now you maybe start to see why Ducati wants to persuade him to accept a wildcard this year (and maybe much more than this in the future).

No longer enjoying the concessions in 2016, Ducati needs to show the world their bikes can battle Honda and Yamaha on any weekend

Ducati lost the concessions for the 2016 season and is now "flying solo," sharing the same racing conditions with Honda and Yamaha. Limited testing, fewer engines, no softer tire option and restricted engine development.

Nevertheless, Gigi Dall'Igna engineered the best bikes Bologna had in a decade or so and brought them back on the podium and with more credible chances of winning races once more. The fact that Ducati really wants more from their efforts in MotoGP is no surprise, but for some reason, rumor has it that they might be headhunting in anticipation of the 2017 season.

A lot of contracts are set to expire at the end of the current season, and some paddock whispers see Ducati Corse possibly eyeing one of the Aliens (Rossi, Lorenzo, Marquez, Pedrosa). It's hard to believe that Rossi would be willing to try his hand with Ducati once more, but the last years taught us to never say never.

Lorenzo keeps on stating that he wants to stay with Yamaha until retirement, but there have been frictions in the team and we're no longer taking such words for granted.

Pedrosa might be thinking that his days in MotoGP are also slowly drawing towards the end and he still misses a world champion crown after an entire GP career with Honda. Ducati's increased competitiveness and V4 engine, plus a good paycheck might convince him to jump ship. That is, if Stoner cannot be convinced to return to MotoGP as a factory rider...

Having Stoner racing with the rest of the field has good odds of yielding good results

Each time Casey Stoner was asked about a potential return to racing, the answer was unchanged since 2012: "I am not interested." Still, when it comes to wildcards, the negative answer was replaced by a "certain degree of incertitude," leaving both Ducati and Stoner fans with hopes.

Seeing Stoner being that fast on a bike he knew almost nothing about was more than enough for Ducati to realize that he hasn't lost almost anything from what made him a legend. And this is more valuable than anything.

With Stoner riding the new Desmosedici and providing crucial info, Ducati's machines could become better by the month. The rest of the teams can't afford a MotoGP legend to test ride whenever they want, and this gives Ducati the upper hand.

As he grows more familiar with the bike(s), Stoner will also be better prepared physically and will shake that rust off his shoulders... most likely becoming faster, more accurate, more constant, and more determined.

Do not be surprised to see him taking part in other official tests and fighting for track supremacy; I really expect this to happen, as I expect to see Stoner doing a wildcard race this year. Ducati says they are ready to have him on the bike straight from Qatar, but this is iffy.

Dall' Igna has said that Stoner will not test at Phillip Island but will be back on the bike, and possibly on the new one, for the final test at Losail, with these two sessions expected to provide enough info to set the Desmosedici for the season opener.

Ducati hasn't stated it openly, but I can almost bet that they would have him as a factory rider right away in case he says yes to racing again. The decision is his, and his alone, but the Desmosedici Dall'Igna built for Ducati Corse may play a crucial role in the whole affair, too.

Stoner showed the MotoGP paddock that he can keep up with the frontrunners even while still rusty and on a bike that's new to him. He proved that he's made of Alien, just like the four horsemen at the top of the standings. If Ducati can convince him to say "yes" to racing, we all might experience a road racing series like nothing we've seen in decades.
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