MotoGP: The Stoner/Pedrosa substitute backstory

The inside story behind the talks between Casey Stoner and HRC regarding replacing the injured Dani Pedrosa at CoTA

motogp stoner replace pedrosa story

“I can resist anything except temptations,” once wrote Oscar Wilde. These words aptly describe a common human proclivity—and racers are no exception, including Casey Stoner. The two-time MotoGP world champion from Australia left the paddock at the end of 2012, hinting at a sweeping impatience toward the politics and marketing of his profession, only to return to the track sporadically with Honda as an extraordinary (by all means) tester aboard the RC213V. What was supposed to be a limited engagement, however, seemingly fueled Stoner's need for speed.

Honda recently announced that the Australian will participate in the famed Suzuka 8 Hours endurance race held in Japan during the summer. Stoner will team up with Honda's longtime tester Takumi Takahashi and World Superbike rookie Michael Vd Mark (who already has two Suzuka wins to his tally despite being only 22) in the MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO squad. While the production-based race undoubtedly requires a good deal of training, Stoner was ready to commit even further, as far as replacing his former teammate Dani Pedrosa, who has successfully undergone arm-pump surgery but will be required to skip the next two races as part of his rehabilitation.

“Sorry to everyone but I'm not racing at Circuit of the Americas next weekend,” Stoner shared via his Twitter profile. “It would have been an honor to ride for Dani Pedrosa. Not meant to be.” To this end, it is worth noting how Livio Suppo, HRC's (Honda Racing Corporation) team principal who originally launched Stoner's championship quest while working for Ducati, quickly dispelled all rumors about a possible return of the Australian after the race in Qatar. When Pedrosa originally announced he was taking an indefinite hiatus due to his physical condition, Suppo said that Hiroshi Aoyama, HRC's official test rider, would have been first in line if a substitution were necessary.

Aoyama will, indeed, replace Pedrosa in Texas and Argentina, but Stoner's tweet hints at an actual negotiation between him and Honda. “It's true, we talked,” Suppo revealed. “Casey would have liked to do it, but it was better not to. We already started the championship with a fifth place instead of a victory, so we have to stay focused. It would have been great for all the fans, but Casey never raced in Texas, and the expectations to see him at the front would have probably been unrealistic. The level is really high at this point. It was better this way, for everyone involved.”

While Suppo's explanation of HRC's reasons for not choosing Stoner for the replacement seat sounds reasonable, he nonetheless skillfully dodged the core question: that is, would not Stoner be a more competitive candidate for the seat? The Australian has demonstrated his ability to learn tracks and get up to speed quickly in the past, and it would be difficult not to imagine Stoner going quickly enough to possibly mix it up with the lead group, possibly giving Marc Marquez a chance to get away.

The most logical answer is that HRC preferred to protect Marquez from possible distractions. While the young Spaniard always relished the chances to measure himself against fellow champions—Stoner included—the media frenzy associated with a temporary return of the Australian in MotoGP would arguably upset the normal workflow. Since the season has started on a surprisingly arduous note for Honda, the factory team thus preferred to minimize any external interference. It is also worth noting how Cristian Gabarrini, Stoner's former crew-chief and pivotal ally, would not have been available to join him in the pits as he is working full-time with Jack Miller.

When Stoner retired, HRC's Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto said that, if the Australian asked for it, a bike would always be ready for him in the pits. There are always exceptions, however...

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