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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Casey Stoner: Why I'm leaving MotoGP

After reading a statement announcing the shock news that he will retire from MotoGP at the end of this season, reigning double world champion Casey Stoner later gave more details as to why he wants to quit grand prix racing at the age of just 26. The Australian star has won more MotoGP races (35) than any other rider since 2006, and been crowned world champion for both Ducati (2007) and Honda (2011). He also leads the 2012 standings by one point. But Stoner explained that the criticism he has received over the years and the direction MotoGP is taking in regards to cut-price CRT-style technical rules means his passion has 'slowly ebbed away from this championship'. “I've been watching this championship for a long time and it's very easy to see what works and what doesn't,” began Stoner, speaking during the Q&A part of the Le Mans pre-event press conference. “This championship and everything that I've worked towards to get here. It's been a huge dream of mine. Then you get here and race for a few years and realise a lot of things. “Whether it's people having no faith in you, people not believing in your talent or changes that have happened to the championship. “2009 [when Stoner was sidelined with fatigue problems] to be honest was a big eye opener to me. People still to this day say it's a mystery illness. The fact that no-one understands that I have a Lactose Intolerance. That it's really critical to me if I do have any. “It's not of the type that everyone thinks it is. It just basically takes my energy, it stops me absorbing nutrients. The fact nobody has listened to me with that. “There are many, many things that just over time have taken its toll. The way I see the championship heading. The direction I see it heading and the fact that in 2009 I really realised what is important. It's family. Happiness. Money isn't everything. “I think I'm one of the few riders that can actually say they retired when they stopped enjoying it. My passion has slowly ebbed away from this championship. “You yourselves, the media, have not exactly been friendly to this championship. Criticising it many times. Especially recently. People don't realise that everyone is bringing it down themselves. “They are saying that the racing is boring. This is boring, that is boring. If you go back some years ago you'll find the same amount of races that are close or not. I think people just need to appreciate what they have in front of them at this time. “I think everyone in this room really needs to realise what championship they have before it's gone. I think it'd be really nice to see some fantastic racing again at the front, but with only a few factory bikes out there it's not going to happen soon. “There needs to be more high quality bikes out there so people like Randy [de Puniet, also at the press conference] can be running where he deserves to be and not so far behind twelfth position. There is just no way for them to get anywhere near the factory bikes. “This championship this year is separated. The first of the CRTs comes into parc ferme after, I think, the race and qualifying. It's clearly separating them. This isn't a two standard series. This is a MotoGP championship. This is a prototype championship. “People can say all they want about the past, that it started out as standard machines and progressed to prototype machines. Now we're just taking the opposite step and going backwards. It's not starting again from the beginning, it's going backwards. “For me it's not the championship I fell in love with. It's not the championship I've always wanted to race in. And except from my competitors around me, they are the only ones that give respect to each other. “Nobody else has enough respect out there for the people that do their jobs, work in the teams, work in the trucks and put this show on every week. It's not easy. “There are many, many different reasons, but it's basically me losing my passion for the racing and my enjoyment of this sport. Sure I'm going to enjoy this year, but I think if I continue it would only be a mistake on my behalf. It wouldn't b correct to Honda, my team and everybody if I didn't give 110%.” Stoner later added that the recent birth of his daughter was not a major factor in his decision to retire. “The birth of my little girl has nothing to do with this. It has a small part of making the decision easier, but by no means is it the reason why I made this decision,” he said. Likewise, last December's V8 Supercar test didn't influence his decision, although Stoner confirmed he is interested in competing in the Australian series. “I have tested the V8 car, but that was something I'd been trying to find some time to do for the last 3-4 years to be honest. Finally it happened,” he said. “It's something I'll definitely be interested to do in the future. “Whether I'll be fast enough or not is another thing. That will not be in the very immediate future. There are many things I'd like to do with my life and to be honest I don't want to finish racing and not want to ride a bike for the next 5-10 years. “I love bikes. This has been my whole life. And if I keep doing it I'm afraid I'll completely lose my passion for it and not want to go near a bike for ten years. That would scare me.” Speaking in a clear voice throughout, Stoner kept his emotions under control, but was clearly moved when asked if he felt retiring so young was a waste of his enormous talent. “This is maybe not a waste of talent, but a waste of a life for me if I continue doing it,” he replied. “I know can go out there, even if I'm not enjoying it, and I'll still do the same results and give everything I can. Because my competitive nature will then take over what the passion cannot hold. “But no to be honest... how can I explain. Maybe I am the only young one with a good career ahead of them to retire so early, but at the same time you know I've spoken the truth always. In all my media commitments. “Even in Portugal [when Stoner denied retirement rumours]. I didn't lie to anybody. Just the information got out, and I'm not sure how or by who, but I hadn't even decided by then. So it was wrong information. I've only decided 100 per cent this last week what my decision is. “Every rider here says always the same thing. 'When I stop feeling the passion for this sport I will retire.' But I think there are many riders out there that cannot say that is the truth. There is always something holding them here, whether it is money, fame or whatever. I've seen riders in the past lose their passion for the sport, their fun, but still continue to race.” Stoner made his MotoGP debut for LCR Honda in 2006, claiming a pole and a podium, then switched to the factory Ducati team for 2007. He then won on his Desmosedici debut and romped to the factory's only MotoGP title to date, but only began to receive the credit he deserved when a series of team-mates struggled with the same machine. Even then, Stoner was criticised for suffering numerous front-end falls as he pushed to keep the Desmosedici competitive from 2008-2010, when he won 13 races - despite being sidelined during 2009 while his Lactose Intolerance was diagnosed. Stoner's switch to Repsol Honda for 2011 brought instant title success and he currently leads the 2012 standings by one point from Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo. Stoner's Ducati replacement - seven time MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi - has taken just one podium since the start of last year. “It's not up to me to say what I'm going to leave to the sport,” said Stoner, in reply to a further question. “Maybe I'll still have some involvement, if I can find the energy, to maybe help some young riders. I'm not really sure what I leave. “We've had a great career. We've had some fantastic races and I feel even after my first championship in 2007 already I had reached my goal. “This was my dream to become world champion. When you are younger you dream of becoming world champion more times, but when you get closer to grand prix and arrive in grand prix the reality is a little more realistic. “But I never stopped trying. No matter how much criticism I got for riding the Ducati. No matter how much criticism I got for crashing and different things like this in the past. This has all helped, to be honest, to arrive at the point where I am today and make my decision a little easier. “I don't believe I'll be leaving anything behind. I'm very happy with the career that I've had in such a short space. To have had the race wins that I've had, the battles, success and problems It's been a difficult up-and-down road, but a fantastic one. So I won't have regrets.” Stoner started racing in dirt track competition when he was four-years-old. A multiple state and local champion, his family moved to Britain when he was 14 so he could start racing on tarmac. Stoner raced in both Spain and the UK, winning the British 125cc Aprilia Championship in 2000, then moved to grand prix - in the 250cc class - in 2002, at the age of 16. He won five 250GP victories and two 125GP victories before graduating to MotoGP in 2006, where the overpowered machines suited his style perfectly. Stoner will be back on track during Friday's free practice sessions for the French MotoGP at Le Mans, round four of 18.

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