BREAKING: Stoner Officially Leaving Ducati at the End of the Season – HRC Announcement Imminent

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UPDATE: HRC has announced that they have signed Casey Stoner for the 2011 season, and that he will likely ride with both Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso.

Now officially official, Ducati has officially announced what we’ve known for months: that the Australian rider would be leaving the Marlboro Ducati team at the end of the 2010 season.

The relationship was first marred last season when Stoner came under a mysterious illness (too mysterious for some commentators), missed a number of races, and since then has been seemingly the bond between Stoner and Ducati has been unsalvageable. Compounded by poor results so far this season, rumors intensified as links between the Australian and HRC became evident.

While Stoner has not mentioned where he will ride for the 2011 season, an announcement about his move to Repsol Honda is expected later today.

Despite the rocky relationship, Ducati’s press release is full of rose hyperbole that seems to gloss over the downward spiral the two parties have been in the past year and a half.

“I would like to thank Casey on behalf of our fans and our sponsors, but most of all on behalf of all the people working at Ducati,” stated Ducati Corse General Director Filippo Preziosi. “The victories and emotions he gave us, rewarded all the hard work and sacrifice we made. In these four years together we have had a lot of great moments. Securing the 2007 MotoGP World Championship title and the victory at Mugello in 2009 were moments that we will never forget. In Casey we not only found an incredibly talented rider, but also an honest and loyal guy and that’s why there will always be a strong and sincere bond between us, even as a competitor.”

Similarly, Stoner’s statement ignores the bad blood of last year, and instead focuses on when Ducati and the Australian were a functioning couple. Citing, his reasons for moving on, Stoner says he is looking for a new challenge in MotoGP.

“I must thank Ducati for giving me such a great opportunity to race and win with them over these past four years,” said Stoner. “They took a gamble when they signed me at the end of 2006 as I was unknown, but as we worked together we were able to win a Championship, many races and challenge for the Championship in the last two seasons. I have now decided to move on and I will have new challenges in the future and different obstacles to overcome, but I will not forget these years with Ducati and the people I have had the privilege to work so closely with. So a big thanks to Ducati and all our sponsors who we have shared success with while achieving lifelong goals.”

Announcements are expected later today from HRC, saying that Casey Stoner will be joining the Honda ranks in 2011, working along side either Dani Pedrosa, Andrea Dovizioso, or both riders (most money is on a Stoner/Pedrosa duo, as Repsol, a Spanish company, is keen to have a Spaniard on the team). There is also some speculation that we could hear an announcement by the day’s end from Ducati, saying that they’ve signed Valentino Rossi, thus creating the ultimate Italian pairing (Editor’s note: Good sources say no Ducati/Rossi announcement today). More breaking news as we get it.

Source: Ducati; Photo: © 2010 Scott Jones Photography