11 April 2015
MotoGP Austin: Honda explains Stoner decision
"I understand Casey is disappointed because many, many times I asked 'please come back, please do a wild-card'" - Shuhei Nakamoto, Honda.
HRC vice president Shuhei Nakamoto and Repsol Honda team manager Livio Suppo sat down with a small group of MotoGP media on Friday at the Circuit of the Americas.
Unsurprisingly the first question was about retired double world champion Casey Stoner's interest in replacing the injured Dani Pedrosa at this weekend's event, which HRC reluctantly decided against.
“Casey approached Honda. Casey wanted to help Dani and the team,” Nakamoto confirmed. “To be honest I was a little bit surprised, but I was very happy to get this kind of request from Casey. Then in Japan myself, Kokubu-san [director of technology] and Yokoyama-san [technical director] met to discuss about this.
“For HRC Casey is quite important. He is a VIP. For us, if Casey races again in MotoGP at least he has to fight for a podium. This is our target. For Casey himself I have no doubt he is very, very fast! But for the rest Casey needed a good machine set-up. For this we couldn't find confidence.
“Because for a crew chief, Christian [Gabbarini] is working with Jack Miller now, so we cannot ask him to join Casey again. Ramon [Aurin, Pedrosa's crew chief] is a good engineer but never worked with Casey. Even Christian sometimes struggled to find good, correct set-up for Casey. It means a newcomer is a big question mark to us, to find a good set-up or not.
“Again our priority is I don't want to see Casey fighting for fifth or sixth position. Our priority was Casey must fight for at least a podium. I couldn't find confidence on our side, the technical side, [to do this].
“To me Casey is like a son. So this [decision] was very tough. I understand Casey is disappointed because many, many times I asked Casey 'please come back, please do a wild-card'.
“If we have time, at least one test before he comes to the race, we would say yes. But we had no time to do a proper test.
“Many of the fans including myself want to see Casey fight again, but for me the top priority was for Casey to fight for the podium.”
Stoner has taken part in one Honda MotoGP test this year, at Sepang in January, in his role as a HRC development rider. However Nakamoto explained that did not include any set-up work.
“The Sepang test was to test parts, not to try machine set-up. Before Sepang 1 we tested with Casey. The lap time was reasonably good. Around 1.5s slower than Casey's record time. This was good pace because the track was dirty and no engineers. Only HRC engineers to collect data.
“This means Casey is showing he is very fast, but to close 1.5s you need a good set-up machine.”
And what did Casey say when you told him your decision for COTA?
“He tweets!” quipped Suppo (see below).
Having declined Stoner's offer, HRC test rider Hiroshi Aoyama was hired to ride alongside world champion Marc Marquez for the next two events, while Pedrosa recovers from arm pump surgery.
Click on relevant pic to enlarge
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