MOTORCYCLE HERO: CASEY STONER
THE SHORT CAREER WITH A TALL IMPACT
You'll struggle to find another racer who has caused such a stir in the media as Casey Stoner - ironic for someone as disinterested in fame as he claims to be. This two-time-world-champion has an almost unparalleled natural ability in motorcycle racing. Which is handy, because it has been a bumpy ride!
Casey Stoner was four years old when he competed in his first race. Six on his first win. Talent doesn't prosper without determination and he excelled in both. When he was 12, Stoner competed in 35 races in a single weekend, winning 32 of them! By the age of 14, he had 41 dirt and long track titles and 70 state titles.
Road racing in Australia, where Stoner was born, was not allowed until the age of 16. So seeing his potential, his family moved to Britain and into a caravan, where they struggled to make ends meet. The hardship soon paid off, when Stoner won the British 125cc Aprilia Championship in 2000, still aged just 14.
A bit overly ambitious, perhaps, was his switch to the 250cc category in 2002 aged just 16. It was unconventional for someone his age, and it proved difficult. Only once Stoner stepped back down to 125cc in 2003 did he begin to flourish again, finishing in 8th position. The following year, this time with KTM, he finished 5th.
Having learned from his previous mistakes, Stoner stepped back up into the 250cc class for the 2005 season, this time with Aprilia. What followed was a very successful year. A thrilling battle against the then championship leader, Dani Pedrosa, saw Stoner finish the season 2nd place, with five wins. He also started dating his future wife, Adriana, whom he had met two years before at Philip Island, where she had asked him to sign her stomach. The couple married in 2007.
Not one to go stagnant, he moved up again for the 2006 season, into the MotoGP 500cc class with Honda. His talent was immediately astounding - a pole position achieved in his second race. He crashed a few times during the season, finishing 8th overall.
Ducati saw his potential and made him an offer for the following season. Stoner quickly became the team's lead rider. His skills upon the 800 Ducati Desmosedici GP7 were second to none. He won in Qatar. Then he won in Philip Island - the first of six consecutive home wins. Stoner finished the season with ten races and his first (and Ducati's only) GP title. His performance won him the Young Australian of the Year award.
'Back in those days, it was just racing... not half as much bullshit as now'
Stoner had gone from newbie to winner in a single season. It was a class act, but one which the fans of five-time champion Valentino Rossi found hard to swallow. Neither was afraid to do some pretty dangerous manoeuvres to overtake each other. He finished runner up to the Italian the following year. Despite that, he earned 280 points: the highest ever received by someone who didn't win.
Stoner had come from outside Europe to dominate what is a traditionally European-dominated sport. He had done so with unashamed boldness. Brash and upfront in interviews, he showed a distaste for the limelight and for the bureaucracy of modern-day racing. The public did not appreciate this. Some claimed his powerful bike was the reason for his win, rather than his talent. Stoner was booed at Donington in both 2007 and 2008.
To make matters worse, during the 2009 season, Stoner suffered a mystery illness and had to miss three rounds. The illness, which was causing him to feel incredibly tired and sick, was eventually diagnosed as lactose intolerance. The public was not sympathetic to him, nor, he later claimed, did he receive any support from Ducati.
“The fact I’m honest seems to rub people up the wrong way”
Discontent was mounting up. Stoner remained with Ducati the following year. He crashed on a few races and struggled with a disappointing season. Meanwhile, Rossi was under the shadow of his Yamaha teammate, Lorenzo, who won the MotoGP championship for the first time. Stoner accepted an offer from Honda for 2011, who was in need of something different after losing to Yamaha. And with Stoner gone, Rossi moved over to Ducati. The result was a stunning season from Stoner, where he won the championship for a second time, taking the title on his 26th birthday. Rossi, on the other hand, was struggling with the Ducati Desmosedici.
The pair came to a head April that year at Jerez when Rossi took Stoner out in wet conditions. Rossi was able to rejoin the race, finishing 5th. But Stoner, who was forced to retired, had lost the chance of a clean sweep of podium finishes. Rossi apologised after the race. Not one to mince his words, Stoner replied that Rossi's "ambition had outweighed his talent". Stoner defended his comment, saying he had found it rude and ingenuine that Rossi has chosen to keep his helmet on while apologising. His put down made him even less popular with the public. Stoner's first child was born February the following year, on the birthday of his long-term rival.
Another controversial move from Stoner was his boycotting of the Japanese round in October 2011, for fears of radiation from a nearby power plant. This was despite scientific experts stating that the distance from the plant was safe. The month grew worse for Stoner as devastation hit upon the news of Marco Simoncelli crashing and dying in Malaysia.
"All we do is travel round in a suitcase"
Stoner was one of, if not the, faster rider of his time. His Honda win had proved that his talent wasn't just down to the powerful Ducati bike, as people have previously charged. Still, fans of the sport couldn't warm to him and the industry was unkind to him.
Despite being on top form, in May 2012, he announced his intention to retire from racing after the following season.
In a characteristically honest statement, he claimed his reasons to be numerous. He had lost passion for the sport. He felt it was dominated by electronics. He wasn't happy with the restrictions. The media. He wanted to spend more time with family. Though it was clear he was ready to leave the sport, journalists were still gobsmacked at the announcement.
Honda's offer of £500,000 per race to stay, which would have made him their highest-paid sports star of all time, was declined. The money, Stoner claimed, did not interest him.
Stoner summed up his decision to leave the sport in an interview with talkSPORT, stating "basically... I wanna open my sock drawer and find socks... all we do is travel round in a suitcase".
Stoner finished his 2013 in 3rd place. And so, at the age of 27, with two MotoGP World Championships and 45 Grand Prix wins under his belt, he retired. Following his final race in the sport, he was nominated FIM MotoGP Legend. He was also appointed a member of the Order of Australia for his significant service in motorcycle racing. He would be inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame two years later.
Following his retirement, Stoner tried his hand at car racing, before signing with Honda as a motorcycle test rider for new machinery. He ended his contract with the team after they refused to let him stand-in for an injured Pedrosa in a few rounds of the world championship. Stoner claiming that Honda's top rider, Márquez felt threatened by him.
His 2013 autobiography Pushing the Limits gave an even deeper insight into his feelings. In it, he claimed that the lack of support from Ducati surrounding his lactose intolerance was the reason for this move to Honda in 2011.
In 2016, he returned as a test rider to Ducati, stating it felt like "going home". He left his position two years later because Ducati was, he claimed, ignoring his feedback, and Stoner refused to be just a "poster boy". Despite this, things ended on good terms.
During his time with the team, Stoner met with fans from all over the world, many of whom showed him their support and enthusiasm. And, as one of the best MotoGP racers of all time, it is a fitting end to his story to he be finally shown the respect and appreciation he deserves.
23/08/19: Good rider moaning tw*t though
22/08/19: Forget all of the bad mouthing, when he was in biking mode all he thought about was getting the best out of his bike. A truly great rider.
22/08/19: Any chance of some quotes?
21/08/19: Can’t stand the guy, but I have nothing but respect for the way he wrestled that wayward Ducati into submission, and achieved the results that no one else could.
20/08/19: Chaz Davies tells some great stories about him when he was younger and stayed with them. A very humble man, and a master on two wheels. So what if he wasn't that personable...... Anyone remember John Kosinsky, another legend but came across as wierd
19/08/19: I’m fairly certain that there are two sides to Stoner, he’s probably a really nice guy that put on his ‘race face’ when he had to. Let’s face it, at the height of his racing career even Foggy had his haters, but he’s a really nice bloke when you meet him away from racing.
19/08/19: He was single-minded to a fault and lacked the interpersonal skills as an international sportsman to match his racing genius. With personality and attitude, must go an understanding that all sport is dependent on the support of the public and the whole modern circus that goes with Moto GP racing. Rossi and Marquez understood this and critically accepts it as they do the big money - Casey did not and he ended up bitter and resentful.
19/08/19: I couldn't give a t*ss if he wasn't media-friendly, doing his job on the bike he was magnificent to watch.
20/08/19: Wrong! The international media plays a huge part in supporting the teams so that they can pay stars like Stonier the huge salaries they get. Part of his contract demands, not suggests, that he plays his part in promoting the brand including the extra money for interviews, press conferences, Sky/BT sports and magazine promotions. Stonier took the big money but thought he was above all that and could not accept the kick back so he took his helmet and leathers home. Silly boy really.
20/08/19: You might like all the media b*llsh*t but I don't. I'm not interested in 'grid walks' or the BSB trend of riders holding up their lids while being interviewed post-race, it's cringe-worthy. As for Sky and BT - yes, of course they are in for the sport not for the money
20/08/19: When the flag drops, the b*llsh*t stops. Nicky and Casey and Jorge and Marquez are great champions of MotoGp.
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