The world’s fastest motorcycle racers never truly retire. Three-time World SBK Champion Troy Bayliss proved this during the opening two rounds of 2015 World Superbike, the 45-Australian substituting for an injured Davide Giugliano on the factory Ducati Panigale R.
Another recent example is 1993 500cc World Champion Kevin Schwantz; he returned to the track last year, the 50-year-old competing in the Suzuka 8 Hours.
Now it’s Casey Stoner’s turn. The 29-year-old two-time MotoGP Champion (2007, Ducati; 2011, Honda) will take on the Suzuka 8 Hours on Sunday, July 26, with the MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO three-person team. The motorcycle? A Honda, of course.
Though Stoner officially retired from racing at the conclusion of the 2012 season, he remains a significant player for Honda as the official HRC test rider, evaluating both RC213V and CBR1000RR machinery. Due to this, Stoner has much experience on the Honda CBR1000RR superbike that will be used in the Suzuka 8 Hours.
During the FIM Endurance World Championship race, Stoner will ride with Honda World Superbike’s Michael van der Mark – the 2014 World Supersport Champion – and MFJ All Japan Road Race JSB1000 Championship and HRC test rider Takumi Takahashi.
This year Honda will seek its sixth-straight win at Suzuka 8 Hours, which runs consecutively for eight hours. During the race, entrants (composed of two or more riders) alternate during pit stops. Stoner will have additional time on the Honda CBR1000RR during offical HRC testing July 7-8 and 14-15.
Casey Stoner says “After riding the bike in Sepang a few months ago, I’ve been speaking closely with Honda about the possibility to take part in Suzuka. It’s always been an event I wanted to do and something I was never able to consider when I was racing in MotoGP, due to our busy schedules, so I’m really looking forward to taking part! The bike is very different to a MotoGP machine, but it will be a new challenge and a chance for me to try something new and unlike what I’ve been used to in my racing to this point.
“I’ve been impressed with Michael van der Mark this season and Takumi Takahashi has a lot of experience on this machine, so I’m looking forward to hearing their comments and working together with them in preparation for the July race. Now I need to concentrate on my training to be ready for the race!”
Shuhei Nakamoto, Executive Vice President of HRC, says “We are very happy that Casey agreed to take part in the 8hr with Honda. It will be great to see him back on a bike in a racing environment and I’m sure he will enjoy it. Together with van der Mark and Takahashi they form a strong team to compete in this endurance race – I’m excited to see how they will do.”
Shigeki Honda, Team Principal of MuSASHi RT HARC-PRO, says “This year, MuSASHi Racing Team HARC-PRO is aiming to win the Suzuka 8hr for the third consecutive year. In addition to our riders, Michael van der Mark and Takumi Takahashi, who together have celebrated the past two victories , we are very happy to invite the legendary Casey Stoner to join our team. Casey has an enjoyed an incredible career and achieved a huge amount of success. We believe that with his fantastic experience, coupled with our team’s know how after many years of involvement at this event, we can make our dreams come true.”
Stoner’s teammates at the Suzuka 8 Hours also commented.
Takumi Takahashi says “The Suzuka 8hr this year means a lot to me and my team since our goal is to win for a third consecutive year, and I’m even more excited to take part together with Casey. Nonetheless, we know our rivals are all set to beat us, so I know it will not be easy to accomplish this goal. I will try to get the best out of the remaining few tests so that we will be able to run the 8hr race as fast as possible without any mistakes. We guarantee to demonstrate our extreme professionalism and excitement to those who will come to Suzuka to support us!”
Michael van der Mark says “The Suzuka 8 Hour race is such a special event for all the fans and the Japanese people and not many riders get the chance to take part, even though many would like to. I also know what an important event it is for Honda so it’s a great honor for me to be asked to race the CBR1000RR once more, and this time with Casey as our teammate!
“The testing and race schedule is quite tough to combine with the World Superbike Championship but I really enjoy riding at Suzuka so I’m very happy to make time for it. The bike is very different to my World Superbike CBR but it’s easy to ride so it’s not big problem to change. I’ve had two fantastic years with a great team and it would be really nice and something quite special to get a hat-trick of wins.”