Casey Stoner signs with Honda MotoGP for 2011
In a Monster Move that cuts the grass out from under a number of teams and individuals for this and next season, Australian quick man Casey Stoner has signed with the Japanese giant for the 2011 MotoGP season.
Something had to happen, given the all-out wars that have waged in that small world since the middle of 2009. Here is a chronology on the immediate past that led to this announcement:
Summer of 2009
Casey Stoner, Ducati’s only race MotoGP race winner and potential world champion is struck down by a mysterious disease and sits out several GPs.
Ducati management panics and makes a Big $ offer to Valentino Rossi for 2010.
Stoner return and is on pace, back to winning races, but is now upset with Ducati.
Fall of 2009 – Early 2010
Ducati develops a Big Bang engine that allows second rider Nicki Hayden to get closer to the leaders, so that Stoner is not alone against the Asian onslaught.
Honda goes on a hiring frenzy, signing senior techs from Yamaha, and a new Team Manager, Livio Luppo, ex-Ducati Team Manager and Stoner’s No 1 fan. Honda invests in the team and needs to win in 2010.
Valentino Rossi tries to force Yamaha into choosing between him and Jorge Lorenzo for 2011. Yamaha offers Rossi a long term contract if he signs it right now. If not, the implication is that they will choose Lorenzo.
Bernie Ecclestone, Ferrari and all of Italy wants Vale at the wheel of a Ferrari in F1.
Rossi turns dummy in public, stops commenting and threatening, and get on with the riding.
Early 2010 MotoGP races
The Honda riders are not up to winning races of the World Championship – unless Stoner falls, Rossi rides hurt, and something happens to Lorenzo. Honda management knew this already, so no surprises there.
Honda has two choices: Rossi, who slammed the door there when he went to Yamaha years ago, and is considered a bit of a flake by Honda Japan. Or Casey Stoner, who will win on the Honda – when he gets to ride it next year, and is adored by Team Manager Suppo. They chose Stoner!
So what of the rest of 2010?
Ducati morale will be lower than a gopher’s basement, even though Stoner will want to continue developing the machine and win races. Ducati paranoia will mean more focus on Hayden and a hunt for a saviour for 2011.
At Honda, infighting between the Spanish (Team management, sponsors, rider managers and riders) will continue and mess up the season even more than it is now.
Rossi can play any one of several high $ cards for 2011: go to Ducati on the golden brick road; remain at Yamaha; or turn to cars and F1 through Ferrari. It is said that Ducati have sent him a contract, and gave him until June to sign it.
In the meantime, Vale will continue to play with the minds of other top MotoGP riders, enough in my opinion to win an eighth World Championship.
As U.S. President Dwigth D. Eisenhower once said: “Things are more the way they are today than they’ve ever been before!”