Casey Stoner fronts camera for limited edition Ducati

CAPTION: Casey Stoner with the limited edition Panigale.

DUCATI has rolled out former World MotoGP champ, Aussie Casey Stoner, to promote its limited edition 1299 Anniversary Panigale S superbike.

The photo of Stoner astride the 205 horsepower Panigale is enough to get the Ducatisti set dreaming once again about whether the retired-but-still-young Stoner could ever be persuaded back onto the race track.

Stoner turns 31 next week. He retired at the end of the 2012 season after winning two world titles, one each with Ducati (2007) and Honda (2011).

His career-long arch-rival, Valentino Rossi, is 37 years old and currently running second in the world GP standings.

The rumour mill went into meltdown late last year when word got out that Stoner had signed a contract with Ducati. It turned out the contract was as an “ambassador and test rider”, not as a racer.

But the rumour mill didn’t let the facts get in the way of a good story, especially when people heard his test times were seriously fast despite four years away from competition.

CAPTION: Casey's hot laps. Ducati released this shot of testing times at. No wonder Stoner fans got excited.

CAPTION: Casey’s hot laps. Ducati released this shot of fastest lap times at the Red Bull Ring test track in Austria on  20 July this year. Stoner came in with the third-fastest lap. No wonder Stoner fans got excited.

The rumours kept running until April when Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali finally poured cold water on the notion, saying: “I think I can rule out with some confidence that he will come back to racing in MotoGP.”

In case you’re interested, the Anniversary Panigale S is Ducati’s 90th birthday present to itself and the world. It was unveiled by Domenicali and Stoner as part of World Ducati Week. Priced  around $AU50,000, the limited run really is limited — just 500 will be made.

And check out the pics. It’s a stunning piece of kit.

(By the way, if you love Italian bikes and you’re within striking distance of Perth, Western Australia, don’t miss next weekend’s Moto Italiane Ovest. More details here.)

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