Casey Stoner has firmly denied that there has been any bad blood between himself and Ducati MotoGP project director Livio Suppo, who announced his departure for Honda on Friday.
Suppo has been in charge of the factory Ducati MotoGP team since its 2003 debut and guided Stoner to world championship glory in 2007.
The reasons behind Suppo's decision to become MotoGP 'marketing director' at Honda next year remain somewhat unclear, but Stoner rubbished speculation that it had anything to do with him.
“Livio's played a big part not only in my success but in the whole success of Ducati. He's been there a long, long time - since the beginning of the MotoGP project,” said Stoner at Valencia on Thursday. “He's done a fantastic job and I think everyone in this room would agree with me, no matter how much they like or dislike him.
“I've had an excellent relationship with Livio. A lot of people tried to push us apart when I was away in Australia [to recover from fatigue problems]. It's wrong basically [to say there was a problem between us].
“Nobody understood what was happening. Livio was there for me the whole time, making sure I was ok, emailing every second or third day to make sure everything was going well and seeing if he could do anything for me.
“It's going to be a big loss to the team. I wish him well in his future dealings. It definitely would have been nice to see out my career with Ducati with him,” Stoner concluded.
The other theory is that Suppo is making way for a future bid by Ducati for Valentino Rossi, when the Italian's Yamaha contract expires at the end of 2010, although others doubt whether such long-term planning is likely.
Suppo's place at Ducati will be filled by a dual-promotion for factory test rider Vittoriano Guareschi and current marketing manager Alessandro Cicognani.