Why Casey Stoner Wildcard Appearances Would Be Such a Cool Thing

For starters, I just have to say that I am not a Casey Stoner fan. The main reason for my appreciation of him is the fact that he not only managed to ride the "unrideable" Ducati but also won a championship. And was the only man to do so in quite a long time also.
Stoner's latest affair with HRC was not exactly happy, this is no secret. Honda sort of hired him as a test rider, but according to his own account, the house of Tokyo never made full use of Stoner's skills and potential. Even more, we could say that Stoner was "summoned" from time to time to play with the newest versions of Honda's machines and provide some feedback.

Besides this, the relationship between the Australian and the Japanese OEM grew colder as of the beginning of the 2015 championship. Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa was sidelined recovering after a much-needed arm pump surgery, and Stoner offered his services to substitute for him in at least a race that we know of.

Honda turned him down, and this seems to be the beginning of the end. Later that year, Stoner was offered a wildcard entry which he, in turn, refused. Also, a mechanical problem caused him to crash hard at the Suzuka 8 Hour endurance race, suffering a broken leg and other injuries.

As months passed, things got worse and the first rumors of Stoner and Honda being irreparably through emerged, only to be confirmed in November. Half an hour after Honda announced that the contract with Stoner ended, Ducati released a statement that confirmed having the Oz rider as a test rider and brand ambassador.

Ducati has big plans for Stoner as a test rider

Now, the Italian OEM has also confirmed that they have big plans for Stoner and intend to make good use of his talent. Of course, being the only rider who succeeded in winning a championship in the last decades weighs a lot.

If he could understand the bike no other rider understood fully, then Ducati is also expecting him to be able to improve the new Desmosedici. Stoner looks like he really wants to ride. In fact, why would he sign a contract with a team knowing that they expect him to test ride a lot?

Ducati knows that he is a most valuable asset for the MotoGP project, and that having him in the team provides the engineers and mechanics with a major source of first-class feedback.

As for how much will Stoner be able to fusion with the superior number of electronic technologies, we'll just have to wait and see. Stoner said more than once that today's MotoGP bikes rely too much on electronics and too little on rider talent.

He even said that almost anyone could climb in the seat of one of these bikes and ride. An overstatement, clearly, but the message between the lines is very clear. Still, having Stoner riding as much as possible and making wildcard appearances may turn out to be the best thing for Ducati.

Why Stoner racing is good

Recent declarations saw Stoner repeating what he has been saying since he retired in 2012, namely that he is not interested in returning as a professional, contracted rider in the premier class. With him only beginning the real job as test rider, it's hard to say whether Ducati will be able to convince him to return to racing or not.

This issue is, in fact, so thorny that I'd rather not touch it with a ten-foot pole. Some say that Stoner still has a bright future as a MotoGP pro rider, while others say that his time is simply out. Time will tell.

On the wildcard side, however, things are a bit different. We know that Ducati wants Stoner on the grid on race days, and the Australian rider recently confirmed this. And good things may come from this...

Fans would flock to see him race

The first thing that has to be mentioned is that Casey Stoner still has a huge fan base around the world. Regardless of where he or Ducati chooses to have him racing, the audience would explode.

After all, whether you like it or not, Stoner IS a MotoGP Legend and having one race with the rest of the top guys once more is not a thing one gets to see every other weekend.

This is good for everyone, because bigger crowds mean more money for everybody. The circuits cashflow will rise, and Dorna will profit, too. Ducati will see Stoner merchandise by the truckload, and part of that money will also go into Casey's account.

People WILL pay big bucks to see Stoner back on the track, and a part of this money can also be used by Ducati to further develop the bikes. It will only be a small amount compared to the costs of running a MotoGP team, but it will be a boon, not a loss.

Ducati will have gathered invaluable data in race conditions from a top rider

Besides having one more bike on the track, Ducati will have one of the best riders in the world at the helm. Alongside the data automatically collected by the bike itself, having Stoner back in the box debriefing and providing feedback is one of the things few teams can afford.

Of course, this is conditioned by how well Stoner will get along with the new Desmosedici generation, but something tells me he'll do just fine. He may feel (and be) a bit rusty, and that's why he used the "safety net" in his recent statements.

Namely, saying that the first tests will have to be considered first and only after that a decision regarding a possible wildcard will be taken into account more seriously.

Nobody will blame him if the first wildcard is a mediocre one

In my book, Ducati should try to convince Stoner to do as many wildcards as possible, as soon as he gets acquainted with the new bike. If his on-track performance is a mediocre one, at least he has very good, authentic excuses.

And don't forget about the previous point. His role is that of a developer, not that of a rockstar. Of course, if he can be at the front of the pack, things are even more glorious, but nobody is thinking about this as being his mission.

His ego might suffer a bit, but when he inked that test rider contract, he most likely knew that he would be a shadow warrior. The bright side of this is that, if he wants, he can step once more into the spotlight.

Stoner can ride as much as he wants in countless private tests

Stoner being a test rider means that Ducati can have him in the saddle as often as they want. The only restrictions are financial limits, namely the amount of money Bologna wants to spend on renting tracks.

Stoner can even take the bike to less famous tracks to put it through its paces and shake off the "rust." If you want, Stoner can even TRAIN on the Ducati machine.

Equalling or even beating Honda in a race would be stellar

It's maybe a long shot until Ducati starts winning races once more, but some believe that the red machines are not that far from the moment when podiums become a common thing.

Nobody has any idea as to how the new bike performs in comparison with the competition, even though it's not long until we will find out. If Gigi Dall'Igna keeps the development pace, we might see the Desmosedici being noticeably more competitive this year.

And if Stoner's "chemistry" with the bike works out well, there is a chance to see him battling at the top. It would be hard to even hope he would step on the podium, but never say never.

Stoner may still be in good relations with Shuhei Nakamoto, but there is something in his eyes that speaks about some Honda payback. Ducati might be the perfect opportunity, and the Desmosedici and virtually unlimited track time, the right weapons for the job.

The last element in the game is Stoner. He has all the resources he needs to make his time at Ducati a memorable one. The gods seem to smile upon him, but is he aware of this?
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