Those that were expecting an announcement on an imminent Casey Stoner wild-card appearance were left disappointed, as the Australian revealed at World Ducati Week the only concrete date in his diary at present is a test in Austria in July.

The double premier class world champion has been widely tipped to appear in his native Australia as a wild card since he signed to become a Ducati test rider at the end of 2015.

Yet Stoner was tight-lipped on the issue in front of a packed press conference at Misano, saying he had nothing scheduled with the Bologna factory, other than a two-day test at the revamped Red Bull Ring in Spielberg that starts on the 19th of July.

Coming off a "really fantastic" two-day test on the Adriatic Coast in punishingly hot conditions, the 30-year old said his first priority was getting "the body ready" for the shakedown that will take place two days after the German Grand Prix.

"I have no plans at this point, honestly," he said. "The only plan that we have at this point is the test at Austria. This is the next most important thing: to do some training again before the next test and get the body ready.

"This Misano test was hard work. This is the only plan we have. We have to discuss also future tests. At this moment we only have the Austria test planned."

Taking place a month before the first Austrian Grand Prix in 19 years, the test in Austria will feature all MotoGP teams, except Repsol Honda, whose riders have already experienced the new 2.6-mile layout during a promotional event.

Such was his pace in Misano last week, sections of the Italian press stated Stoner had lapped within a tenth of a second of Jorge Lorenzo's outright lap record. Ducati insists these reports were pure fabrication, but nonetheless indicated that Stoner's times were impressive.

Working in sweltering conditions - ones that have been the Achilles' heel for the men in red in 2016 -, Stoner was content to make progress with the Desmosedici's chassis, electronics and feelings with Michelin tyres.

"It was really fantastic," said the 2007 and '11 world champion. "We made some big steps in the areas we were looking for. Even in the areas we weren't looking at so much we still made some steps forward.

"Considering with tyres, with the chassis, with the electronics, there were some aspects with the bike which we moved forward a little bit. This is only a positive and I'm really looking forward to the future, especially to test in hot conditions, in which we've maybe struggled a little bit this season.

"With low grip we seem to have improved a little bit in this area so hopefully we can see what happens in the rest of the season."

While the opening three races of 2016 promised so much, neither of the factory riders have broken Ducati's dreaded winless spell that dates all the way back to 2010, the year Stoner last raced for the Bologna factory.

Stoner is adamant that the current championship standings, in which Andrea Iannone sits eighth (93 points back of leader Marc Marquez), and Andrea Dovizioso eleventh (102 points in arrears), do not reflect the potential of the '16 Desmosedici GP.

"There are a lot of good points with the Desmo. We just need to make them all join up a little bit better. Quite honestly the results this year have not shown our potential. I think our potential is a lot higher than where we've arrived to in this championship.

"You saw what Andrea Iannone was able to do in Mugello: the last lap was his fastest lap, also the top speed was fantastic, which is always a big help."

On the strengths and weaknesses of the current package he continued, "In general we're quite strong in the braking. Turning seems OK. Stability is good. We have a fantastic engine.

"Turning in one aspect of the corner we could probably improve. This is what we were able to do a little bit in these last two days. I think it's just putting everything together."

One frustrating aspect of Iannone's early season was that he was unable to take full advantage of the bike's potential when he was in contention for a strong result (Qatar, Argentina, Mugello).

Stoner believes that a strong run of podiums - and perhaps even a win - in the first three races would have led to the Italian riding in a more confident fashion when the series arrived in Europe at the end of April.

"If we are able to get those results that we deserved at the beginning of the season maybe now we would be in a better position, not only in the championship, but also in confidence from the riders knowing that they can get some better positions and not be under so much pressure to try and finish with some decent results.

"I think quite honestly we are not so far. The bike feels good. It feels good enough at my pace at this moment. If you get to the top we need to listen to the two Andreas and the other riders who understand exactly what we need."

Comments

Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment