x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

MotoGP: Casey Stoner getting back on two wheels

Former MotoGP champion will test ride for Honda in Japan next month after his unexpected retirement from the sport last year.

After he retired from MotoGP last year, Australian rider Casey Stoner will test ride next month. Javier Soriano / AFP
After he retired from MotoGP last year, Australian rider Casey Stoner will test ride next month. Javier Soriano / AFP

SYDNEY // The former world MotoGP champion Casey Stoner on Tuesday fuelled speculation that he may return to the sport by announcing he will test ride with his old team, Honda, at Motegi.

The Australian, who won two world titles in motorcycling's most prestigious category, in 2007 and 2011, shocked the sport last year when he retired at the peak of his career, at age 27.

At the time, he said he was disillusioned with the sport and switched to V8 Supercars, driving for Red Bull Racing Australia.

But he admits he has missed the thrill of two wheels and will now complete four Honda test sessions, joining the team in Japan on August 6 and 7.

It has increased speculation that he could make wild-card race appearances this year with the Australian and Japanese grands prix seen as most likely.

"There are times when I miss riding my RC213V, so I am really happy that Honda have asked me to do some testing in Motegi this year," Stoner said on the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix website.

"It will allow me to enjoy what I miss, which is riding a MotoGP bike."

A spokesman for Honda insisted that wild-card appearances were not part of the plan. "There have been rumours of a wild-card race for Casey but this is out of the question," the Honda team principal Livio Suppo said.

Crucially, Honda want Stoner's assessment of their RC213V, which is locked in a tense struggle with Yamaha for this year's world championship.

"When you have a new bike, it is good to have a test rider who can really push the limit before you give the bike to the factory riders," Suppo said. "If you do something, you do it properly which is why [Honda] have agreed with Casey to come and do a series of four test sessions in Japan."

Stoner won the second of his MotoGP titles riding a Honda, with the first coming on a Ducati.

He suffered a broken ankle last year but, when announcing his switch to four wheels, said his decision had more to do with MotoGP fans than injuries.

"We got spat at [by fans], they tried to knock us off scooters going from the motor homes to the pits," he told The Telegraph. "We had a lack of respect from a lot of people around the sport and I didn't like the direction it was taking. Unfortunately, they didn't like my honesty in the paddock.

"That was part of it, but more it was the direction of the sport."

He also had expressed unhappiness with technical changes to MotoGP that increased engine sizes to 1000cc from 800cc.

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