Casey Stoner’s thoughts on Marc’s attempted return, on how this year doesn’t deserve to be called a World Championship, how Ducati just looks at data and doesn’t listen to riders feedback, on Pedrosa’s influence on KTM, and how it hurts seeing Rossi as just a top-ten guy… Stoner aired his thoughts before MotoGP heads to Misano this weekend for the first of what will be a double-header at the Italian circuit, a place he has enjoyed victory himself.
The 34-year-old spoke with the Australian Grand Prix Corp’s ‘In The Fast Lane’ podcast this week and despite having never been a media darling, he can still certainly provide great headlines for the media.
“Calling it a World Championship is a little bit difficult this year, racing two races at the same circuit. If the selection of circuits suits somebody then it really is a big benefit. Not really travelling around the world, and then calling it a World Championship is something I am not a massive fan of. But the racing itself is fantastic, to get up and going, rather than the riders sitting around all year, that’s fantastic.”
Watch the racing as a fan or a critic?
“When I see some riders doing some pretty incredible things then I see the racing as a fan, but unfortunately mostly you have always have those rider goggles on, seeing what they should be doing or shouldn’t be doing etc.
“Also I suppose feeling it through some of the results that have been happening, some results have been torn away from riders this year that don’t deserve it. Things need to be a little more clear with track limits and things like that, when they are allowed to seemingly go off track and not be penalised, and when they are not allowed to go off track and be penalised, I think there is a lot up in the air at the moment that is making the racing very confusing for people and riders themselves. They need some clearer lines and some clear decisions on what they do in the end. That is where I do see it from a rider perspective and see the heartbreaks.”
Does the absence of Marquez lessen the value of the championship?
“Without Marc there, quite honestly, there is no leader, at the moment. You see that by the results, by the people that are standing on the top step of the podium. Marc was a clear leader and took that championship to another level.
“When I was there it was myself, Valentino, Jorge and Dani that were always at the front stretching the field out. At the moment they don’t really have that rider to do it that is Marc, showing what you should be doing each week and a level of consistency throughout a season.
“Because this season is condensed, two races at most circuits, they sort of feel that if they got a half decent result one week they will be okay for the next week, it is a very, very different championship, and I think it is upsetting the mix in a lot of ways like that.
“Then you have had two races that have been red-flagged and re-started, and I don’t agree with not having the aggregate times. For instance Joan Mir was doing a great job there out in front in the second race in Austria, and then gets that absolutely stripped away from him and ends up with no result, I just don’t think that’s fair. In racing in general just to be able to put a full grid re-start and let people go well I only have six laps to keep it towards the front, I don’t necessarily agree with that style of racing.”
On Marc and his attempt to race less than a week after breaking his arm…
“I mean we have all ridden through injuries, if you don’t then you are certainly not going to be a MotoGP rider. Crashes happen and they’re kind of unavoidable, then you sort of have to ride through it.
“But an accident as severe as Marc’s was always going to be, in my opinion, quite impossible to return in that short time span that he tried to ride. I think if he gave it a week or two that first time around he may have had enough strength and everything to then ride the rest of the season, and work his way slowly back towards the front. And with the way the races have gone he probably could have still have been winning.
“But I think it was just far too premature coming back with an injury like that, without at least it being pinned from both sides of his arm, so he was always going to be a little bit too weak, there was going to be movement in there, things like that. It has got to be hard for him, maybe waiting an extra week or two could have had him in there for the rest of the season and still have a very realistic shot at the championship but now having to sit out for this long has got to be hard work for sure.”
Has Marc flattered the Honda?
Repsol Hondas are at the back of the grid and not figuring in the races at all…
“I honestly think you could pretty much win with any bike on the grid there right now, they are all very similar, they just have some different traits to them and where they find their speed.
“The big difference is again, there is no leader for people, if you’re not a leader then you’re a follower, and if you’re a follower then you’ve got to see somebody doing something on the bike to believe yourself that it can get there. It is not an easy thing, I went through it at Ducati, when I wasn’t there the Ducati really struggled a little bit, I am not necessarily calling myself a leader but I never looked next door and thought the grass was greener, I always thought well this is the bike I have got to work with, so there is a way of finding speed out of it. That’s exactly what Marc does, he doesn’t worry about the rest of it, he just worries about his own thing, finds speed out of it, and then with that people can see what the bike can do, and they go well, if he can do that then I can at least get closer towards the front. Without Marc there, they certainly do seem to have lost their way a little bit, in showing what the bike can do.”
On to Ducati. Dovizioso announcing he was leaving Ducati without any Plan B caught a lot of people out. You felt in the past, they don’t give enough weight to feedback.
“I am pretty disappointed in Ducati. You would think they may have learnt to really look after the riders that look after them.
“Andrea has been trying to get things done, as I was, and a big reason of why I left Ducati in my test role as well, it was just, we could not get things through to them to make the changes for the rider, if they didn’t see it in the data they didn’t really see it as relevant. Everything about a bike is about feel for the rider, it’s feel, it’s not like a car where you can be strapped in and you only have certain elements there, your steering, brake and throttle. On a bike just a little bit of difference in your rider position is going to change the way the bike moves and the way the bike feels, everything has to translate back through the rider. And when they have got somebody good at relaying that information, like Andrea, then they have got to listen to him, and that is a big part of what Andrea is unhappy about.
“It has been years and years now of everything going through data, everything being about the engine, and aerodynamics, and it’s pretty much one person deciding I suppose the direction at Ducati. It’s very close to being the fantastic bike on the grid, but it is always missing that one fundamental which is turning, and it is something that comes from a rider getting that feel with the chassis, and it is always something that has been missing.”
Jack Miller moving to the Factory Team next year. He might be in the leadership role there depending on who is going to be his team-mate. Is he ready for that responsibility and expectation?
“Only time will tell. I have been very impressed with Jack over these last years, how he has come on, how he handles himself, how he goes about the race weekend, I think he is doing a very good job. I would like to see him choose harder tyres at times, he likes to choose the softer option, and sometimes it works for him and other times not. I always found that if you run with the harder tyres and set your riding style up around that then you are a little safer going into the races, but other than that I think we will have no problem settling in there.
“It will be a very different situation, being in a satellite team that is pretty much running factory bikes anyway, it’s quite a good gig that people that are in the situation don’t realise. It is always the dream to get into the Factory Team but there is a lot of pressure that comes with it. You have got a lot more engineers, a lot more expectation, a lot of things to sort of deal with. Jack’s been really progressing nicely over these last few years and he should have no issues.”
And KTM doing so well, from the outside looking in what has changed there.
What impact has your old team-mate Dani Pedrosa had as test rider.
“Again, it is having a leader. And whether it is a leader out on track showing what it can do, or a leader in development direction, and that would be Dani’s job, and where he has taken them. They had been a bit stagnant over the last couple of years and now that Dani has got in there and pushing them in the right direction. Dani and myself enjoyed similar bikes, a little bit different, but chassis wise we generally always chose the same chassis, if we had a selection of two we always went towards the same one, and I would say it is Dani that has really made the big key there to the fundamentals that the bike needed and they have made a massive step forward.
“At Brno there might have been a little bit of tyre selection there, I’m not sure why the Yamahas chose those softer options or whatever they did, but it was a bit of tyre selection there as well from what I understand, being all the way over here. Brad did a great job, Pol would have been up there if he had not have run wide then cut back together with Johann. In Austria they have been consistently quick as well, but at the same time, Austria, like I said, when they got red flagged when absolutely nowhere and had no chance of winning the race, then the red flag happens and you get these surprise winners. It’s been very impressive this year from the Austrian manufacturer for sure, I think, to be honest, 70 to 80 per cent of it has been Dani Pedrosa.”
Thoughts on Valentino Rossi? What’s your thoughts on him and his motivation at the age of 41 and nothing really left to prove.
Has he earned the right to go out on his own terms with the move to Petronas, or is that a seat better in the hands of a fast young guy, like a Quartararo or Morbidelli has shown in the past couple of years.
“That is a very good question. Valentino has done a heck of a lot in the past, but in these recent years he has been a top ten guy. I still think he has got the speed to go towards the front, but in general he is just missing that last little edge that young guys are willing to push and find the speed he just doesn’t have, especially doesn’t have at the start of races, he generally gets there towards the end and his experience shows, but he has been lacking a little bit.
“They’ve made the right decision to put Quartararo into the Factory Team, but we will just have to see how Valentino goes in the Petronas Team where they’ve been doing such a good job. Where does his motivation come from, I really don’t know, he says he still loves it, but a guy like that loves winning, so it would be hard for me personally to be running fifth-sixth spots consistently and treating podiums like wins in the way that he does, when they’re not actual victories. It is very strange, and hard to see him to be honest not fighting for those front positions a bit more.”
Quartararo has been a stand out with those two wins, but really the entire younger generation has been impressive. Joan Mir, Brad Binder, Oliveira and despite not doing much this year Bagnaia also. Is there someone in particular that stands out for you?
“To be honest, I don’t know. Everyone seems to be running that sort of pace. Pecco really impressed me in Jerez, and then he crushingly had an engine issue. Of course Fabio, we knew he was fast from last year and he came out guns blazing this year but that was at a circuit where he had already took pole last year so for me that’s not showing a lot, that is just showing that circuit really suits him, then we get to Austria and he was absolutely nowhere all weekend.
“Again without that leader like Marc showing that you have got be up there consistently, no matter the circuit, no matter the conditions. It is very hard to judge what these young guys can do, once the field gets stretched out a little bit, and they’ve got somebody in there that’s daunting to them, then it might change the results and where they come from, but we’ve got a bit of talent there for sure, to have showings at the front, but I think consistent showings at the front I haven’t really seen anybody as yet that has proven they are going to be a consistent front runner. I thought Fabio was going to be a lot better this year, but Austria has been quite disappointing to be honest. I know the Yamaha struggled but its still no excuse to be running that far back.”
Who should win this year’s title, and who do you think will win…
“Who should win it, in my opinion, between Andrea and Maverick to be honest, who should win that championship. They have had enough time there, enough experience there, they are the top men in their teams, realistically they should be the top one and two in the championship. But again they have both shown in the past to be inconsistent, it’s making this championship very difficult to see who actually has the best chance of winning it.
“I think anybody that hits a bit of form at this point, without Marc in the championship, is probably going to take the title, but as we have seen anything can happen, and people that you thought were going to be runaways actually aren’t, so I think we just have to sit back and enjoy this year and see what happens at the end. I personally like a stand-out, as much as people don’t, they like to see it mixed up and having different people win races. I love seeing that rider than get it together every weekend, and dominate people, put fear into the rest of the riders and watch everyone else scramble around to try and keep up, that is what I like to see.”
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