Hours after the Italian Web site Sportmediaset reported Ducati Marlboro rider Casey Stoner had signed with Repsol Honda for the 2011 MotoGP season, the team’s marketing manager, Livio Suppo, denied everything on another Italian Web site, GPOne.com.
Livio Suppo says "There are four strong pilots in contract expiration. It is clearly that there’ll be interest for one of these (riders). In this moment, all speak with all (riders), but nobody has signed anything."
The four "pilots" Suppo is referring to are Stoner, and most likely Fiat Yamaha riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, and Stoner’s teammate Nicky Hayden.
All four, along with Honda’s own Dani Pedrosa, have expiring contracts at the conclusion of the 2010 season.
Though Suppo denies Stoner’s signing with HRC, the rumors continue to grow, divulging much speculation. These rumors began last week when Suppo was observed negotiating with Stoner.
And after the Italian media reported today that Stoner had signed with Honda, the speculation ascended.
First, it should be noted that Suppo, who spent 11 years with Ducati before moving to Repsol Honda last year, was the Australian’s former boss, and was talking to the 2007 MotoGP Champion’s father and business manager Colin after the Jerez GP.
Many are reporting that tension was built between Ducati team managers and Stoner after the number 27 rider’s "mysterious illness" last season, which turned out to be a case of lactose intolerance.
Stoner missed three races due to the illness, and finished fourth in the championship. Due to Stoner’s impressive performance when he returned, many believe the 24-year-old may have had a great shot at the championship.
He took second on his return race in Estoril, and then won the following rounds in Phillip Island and Sepang.
As for this season, Stoner is currently sitting in eighth place with 16 races to go. He crashed out of Round 1 in Qatar, and finished fifth at Round 2 in Jerez.
If true, this wouldn’t be the first time Ducati made the headlines about seeking other talent for 2011. Nine-time World Champion Rossi has openly stated he had offers from Ducati, which reportedly involved huge amounts of money. His teammate Lorenzo has also been reportedly on Ducati’s radar.