Honda may have said it is 'out of the question', but the Australian MotoGP organisers are unsurprisingly hoping that Casey Stoner
could yet make a wild-card return for his home round in October.
The double world champion retired from MotoGP at the end of last season, at the age of just 27, but will return to the seat of an RC213V during a series of private tests for Honda.
The official purpose of the tests is to help Honda develop next year's MotoGP machines, both the official factory bike and new privateer model.
Conscious that the outings will fuel rumours that Stoner could return to the grid, Honda stated at the time of the test announcement: "[Stoner] has been linked with rumours of a wild card appearance this season but this is now out of the question."
However it seems even the Phillip Island organisers believe there is a chance Stoner could yet make a one-off entry for his home round from October 18-20, a venue he has been undefeated at since 2007 and where he had a corner named in his honour last year.
"Honda had three bikes in their garage [in 2011] with [Andrea] Dovizioso - this year Casey might be that third rider," Andrew Westacott, chief executive of the Australian GP, told AAP
. "I'd love him to be there [at Phillip Island] and if he can make it down, we'd throw out the welcome mat."
Fellow former Australian world champion Wayne Gardner also thinks the Honda tests could lead to a race return: "If the tests go well and if the lap times are there, and if he's developing the bike with Honda, I think they'll probably say 'why don't you go and do a race or two?'"
Since leaving MotoGP, Stoner has taken part in the support class for the V8 Supercar series and has recently been linked with a third Triple Eight run car for the prestigious Bathurst 1000 round. Bathurst takes places on October 10-13, the same weekend as the Malaysian MotoGP and one week before the Australian round.
Stoner's rookie replacement Marc Marquez currently leads the MotoGP standings by 16 points from team-mate Dani Pedrosa.