Casey Stoner has made his on track debut as a test rider for the Ducati MotoGP team, beginning preliminary testing in Sepang this weekend.
It was the Australian’s first outing on a Ducati since the Valencia GP in 2010.
Casey completed 54 laps of the Sepang circuit on last year’s Desmosedici GP15, acquainting himself with the new machine and the vastly different Michelin tyres and control ECU.
His best time of 2:02.1 was set during his last stint of the day.
Whilst that time is significantly slower than previous test times and the official race lap record of 2:00.6 (Jorge Lorenzo/Yamaha), temperatures were reaching about 40°C and track conditions were not ideal.
And given the changes to the ECU and tyre supplier for this year’s season, there are no other times to realistically compare Stoner’s lap time to around the Malaysian track at this time.
Casey was happy with his performance but admits he is not yet at his peak.
“Lap times for me were surprising. A lot better than I expected”, he said in a post-test interview.
“I still need a little more time to return to a competitive level and find the right feeling because I haven’t ridden a MotoGP bike for a year and haven’t been on a race bike for six months.”
Stoner admitted the bike felt very different from his past Ducatis, but said “The Desmosedici GP has great potential and I hope to be able to give the right feedback to Gigi and the Ducati engineers to help the two Andreas get some good results this year.”
Fellow test rider Michele Pirro debuted the GP16 and focused on testing fuel consumption, but it is not yet clear if Stoner will test the GP16 in Sepang.
Stoner is expected to complete two days of testing, and there have been conflicting reports that he may ride at some point during offical pre-season testing which starts on Monday.
Casey Stoner is Ducati’s most successful MotoGP rider, winning the championship in his first year with the Ducati factory team in 2007 and taking 23 wins by the time he left the team to join Honda in 2010.
His role at this stage is as a test rider, but speculation continues to mount on whether he will compete in the 2016 season as a wild card entry.