Schwantz On Stoner: "Skipping Three Races Is Out Of The Norm"

As is customary prior to the Indianapolis MotoGP round, the Press Communications staff organize a conference call with a senior figure in American racing to help stir up the already intense interest in the event. Last year, we spoke to Colin Edwards, and this year, the press assembled on the end of the phone lines has the distinct honor to talk to US racing legend Kevin Schwantz. Schwantz is known for his outspoken yet well thought out opinions - his article on what he thought of the DMG's attempt at running the AMA Superbike series over on Superbikeplanet.com is an excellent example - and we were hoping to hear something interesting.

We got that, alright. The first question to Kevin Schwantz, once the mike had been turned over to the press, was from Superbikeplanet's Dean Adams, who asked Schwantz for his thoughts on the situation surrounding Casey Stoner and his mystery illness. A transcript of his replies follows below:

Dean Adams: Can you touch on the Casey Stoner situation a little bit, a lot of mysterious stories going around at the moment. You've been to several MotoGP races this season, what have you heard, what have you seen, what do you think?

Kevin Schwantz: Well I guess first of all what I've heard and what I've seen is that Casey's been struggling with some type of an illness, whether it was a stomach bug or whatever, at a bunch of the earlier grand prix that I went to. Of course the last one I went to at the Czech Republic he wasn't there, still with no form of illness that's been diagnosed by any doctors that I've heard, anyway. 

As a rider, my gut feeling is Casey needs to be out there competing. This championship, when he made a tire choice at Donington which seemed to be a little bit off of the norm, had him right at the top of it. I mean, he didn't need to be making a gamble on tires like that when he was in the championship hunt. For me that told me there was more going on with Casey than just "you know I don't really feel all that good but I'm finding a way to perform." And for me, to have signed a contract whenever it was, beginning of this year, beginning of last year, whenever it was, you're signing a contract to compete unless something is medically wrong with you. I'm out there doing the best that I can, whether I can give 100% every weekend is kind of another question. 

For me it's a real disappointment. I think Casey's a great competitor and I think ... maybe a little bit more of this has something to do with something behind the scenes that none of us quite yet know about. Maybe that's some Stoner hard feelings towards Ducati or towards the series or I don't exactly know what it's going to be. But to just decide to skip three race and see if you feel any better at the end of it to me is a little bit out of the norm.

DACan you talk a little bit about how difficult it is to remain motivated as a rider if your heart just simply isn't in it?

KS: Well, yeah, I can be the first to comment on that because when I quit racing it was, you know any motivation, any focus I'd had any inspiration to go out and compete every weekend was based around trying to figure out how to beat Wayne Rainey. Without Wayne there ... you know winning a race was winning a race and it was still really cool, but it didn't have near the meaning to it that it did when I was beating him. 

You know, if your heart's not in it, it's somewhat of a high-risk profession, and maybe you're better off going to get a desk job or at least stepping away from the sport, and that in my situation is what I did. I sure hope that's not the case with Casey Stoner and he hasn't just lost interest and focus in this sport at such a young age. Because he's definitely a huge draw to the series, and I think, you know, he's been a world champ, so he obviously can ride one of these two-wheeled rockets at the best of his ability, which is world championship winning level.


A full transcript of the press conference is due to be released later today, and if it doesn't get posted here, it will be up on the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix's excellent website. 

Back to top

Comments

Appropriate that if those comments were to come from us "ordinary" folk instead of an accomplished former racer, we would have been chastised for not knowing what we were talking about. But now that the ice is broken, agreed, Stoner needs to suck it up and get out there and race. For his fans, for his sponsors and mostly for himself. Before all this happened, Casey was revered as being the complete package (skills/drive/mental toughness) to challenge for many years. One way or another, that reputation has now been affected. Race, quit, or fess up to the real problem.

The problem here is that Kevin Schwantz - while a racer he may be - is not a doctor, is not Casey Stoner and is not going through what Stoner has and is currently going through.

The issue is that Stoner has tried to race with his current condition for some time now and it is apparent that it has not gone away. I'm sure that he has gone through much rehabilitation and therapy to improve his condition, but it has not improved. If the only option left, at the advice of his doctors, is to take x amount of time off, then I'm sure he did so after much thought and with the intention that he may be able to race another day at his full capabilities.

Schwantz may not be a doctor but it sounds like he knows about as much of whats going on with Casey as anyone considering the doctors have been checking and doing tests on Stoner for what a couple of months now and they still can't say exactly what it is.

The explanations I see are these :-

1. What Ducati want to do to the bike so that other riders(Maybe even Lorenzo) might score points on it, has really p*ssed Casey off and this is how he's getting them back.

2. (And my personal favourite) The Ducati has bitten him at last, in just the same way it has bitten the other top class riders who have not been able to achieve anything like the success that Casey has had. Basically, as Ron Haslam would put it, he's got the "knock".

For my money Rossi has gotten into stoners head. In Catalunya '09 Stoner was behind Rossi and unable to even draft pass not like '07 when he could do it at will and take it easy round turns. He is fast at practice but not getting pole positions while Rossi who is not known for poles is doing well, 5 so far. M1 as fast as GP9 when checking top speeds and M1 nimble in turns so Casey has no advantages. Casey even going slower in race than even practice. He's mentally beaten and even when he wsa all conquering only beating Rossi in one straight head 2 head in Cat '07 and when Rossi applies pressure he cracks. No bolting to front for him or Pedrosa no win. Neither can ride through pack and win. Poor Stoner his head is gone.

Rossi is so into Casey's head that Casey broke his seven year win streak at Mugello. Please...

Casey is either physically ill (he vomited inside his helmet during a race), or Ducati have killed the goose that laid the golden egg and pissed him off something serious.

Rossi's got little to do with it, Casey's still won two races this year, which is more than most people on the grid.

You see, if this illness turns out to be physical, then everyone (including me) will tip their hat to Casey Stoner and welcome him back as a fast man and a great racer, no matter how unpopular he might be in the PR stakes...

If it turns out to be a mental weakness, then people will show no pity or respect (more down to his PR than anything). Even Randy Mamola let slip on the BBC he thought it was down to stress... "Obviously this comes from stress and being able to handle stress... Everybody has to go to work from time to time with stress..." sort of backs up what Shwantz says... Different era maybe?

If it turns out to be more serious than either of those, well that doesn't bare thinking about...

I heartily agree with Faster1... "One way or another, that reputation has now been affected. Race, quit, or fess up to the real problem."

If Lorenzo gets this deal, I would be very surprised if Stoner stayed with Ducati. If this condition is mental, you really think he's going to think "Right, I'm going to beat this new teamate on 3 times as much money as me cos Ducati loves me!" after winning the WC for them? Look what Ducati did to Loris after having started 2007 as their Golden Boy and ending out of the team... I remember it well... Ducai are ruthless

Like the rest of them aren't ruthless?

It is big business with big money. Remember what Honda did to Rossi! Marlboro wants results, podiums and championships. When your main sponsor (some say 80% of the budget) says it needs more and you are a small company in todays times, you got to listen!

If Casey comes back healthy and can WIN agian, they will pay him. Remember Ducati and the team has given Casey alot and hopefully he and Ducati will remember that they won as a unit, just as they did with Bayliss's return.

2010 Casey and Jorge in GP, Nicky and Michael in WSBK. Haga retires with a crown?

But I think it's a bit harsh to say he's goldbricking. I believe it's also naive to make sharp separations between mind, body and spirit. I bet that, for what ever reason, Stoner doesn't believe he should be riding the bike at this time and knows full well what the impact will be. If he comes forward with more information on the decision in the future it could reflect on how he handled the difficulty he's been presented. But until then, all other statements are hollow.

Maybe a bit hollow and harsh and it is all speculation, "Brook". But we should all keep in mind that Stoner chose this profession, public scrutiny and all. It is part of the job description (like it or not). He is a celebrity and if he chooses to keep his unusual behavior a secret then speculation is all we have. I think Schwantz had a real grounded take on it, since he is in the dark as well. And he gave us an "insiders" opinion. I disagree that Casey knows full well what the impact will be. Most celebs don't. Nothing good will come of this. It will be damage control for him for a while. That said, I want to see him back soon. He is still a freakin' rocket....

"That said, I want to see him back soon. He is still a freakin' rocket...."

Well said.

I think Stoner's lack of likeability has done its work even on people like Schwantz. The guy has just never been a real Stoner fan and thus is more tempted to say 'he should just step up his game'. I just read too many assumptions.

Whatever the problem, Faster1 is actually right: we don't know what we're talking about, and neither is Schwantz with all due respect.

You all gotta remember that these guys ride bikes around corners faster than most of us go in a straight line- whilst overtaking another rider. If you are barfing in your helmet or whatever, then the likelihood of falling off has to be substantially greater along with killing yourself too. Many of the greats had serious injuries that spoiled one or more of their championships, so I suppose Casey is looking at this as injury out time without the injury. I think he is wise to take a break so he doesn't kill himself.
The other thing is that doctors don't have immediate answers to everything (personal experience), and this is very difficult for people who are fortunate enough to have not had a medical condition that has vague but definite symptoms and no medical condition to tell the world about- to understand. They always say it must be mental, psychosomatic or stress. Not so, just hope that it doesn't take Casey the 19 years that it has taken me to find out what is wrong with him. Can't wait till he is back. The series is significantly the worse without him.

I actually think Schwantz (a great rider) is saying one thing when his retirement is saying the opposite. He was in a position where he could have suck it up and he didn't. And I recall he said something rather similar when Foggy stopped so i begin to wonder if he's just not a bit bitter about how he did handle his own end of carreer. Just a thought.

I think everyone's a bit harsh on Stoner. It didn't look like he faked an illness in Catalunya - he genuinely looked "stuffed". I know a few people who have had chronic fatigue type illnesses that doctors can't seem to diagnose definitively. Mentally broken...I don't think so. Its too short of a time period (a few races) for Stoner to be broken. I imagine that Stoner would have reasons he believes he hasn't won for awhile (hes still up the front).

I actually wonder if the carbon fibre frame has sent the Ducati in the wrong direction? Stoner used to be the "money man" if it rained - but not this year. I'm wondering (no way from a technical perspective) if its all too stiff - and this is highlighted in wet conditions where you need a bit more flex other than tyres and suspension. Could be a reason for tyre wear in the dry too???

I would really like to hear some more from Randy Mamola. He's so much closer to the Ducati camp (isn't he?), so I figure he'd have something worthwhile to say.

Again, I could be wrong, but I'm under the impression that his closest ties to any one team would be with Ducati. Perhaps he knows better than the rest, and I haven't seen or heard a lot from him lately.

Perhaps the talk of Kevin sucking it up and racing ARE justified. Perhaps they AREN'T, since Kevin admitted he was done, and then walked away instead of just phoning in to say he wouldn't be at the next few races.

If it's CFS for Casey, then I must say that it's my idea of a fate worse than death, since I have a similar, non-viral equivalent malady as a result of a 60-foot fall, followed by 22 operations on my back. I'm in pain 24/7, AND I can't sleep as a result of that, so I'm ALWAYS tired, sleepy and worn out. And feeling like that all the time... is just...CRAP. So, I hope Casey bounces back and gets back in the saddle. The series is SO much more exciting when he's around. He's definitely the "Biaggi" role--inasmuch as he's the POLAR OPPOSITE of Rossi, and he makes a great contrast of personality for the fans and the series. I LOVE having him in the field.

As (I believe) Mike Scott said, Casey was THE toughest nut to crack for Rossi. I think there's some credence to that. Biaggi was undone for the final time at Welkom in 2004, and Laguna 2008 was a "Waterloo" of sorts for Stoner. Without the 13 Km/h top speed advantage, AND opponents whose tires had a 7-lap lifespan, the "machine-gunning fish in a barrel" slaughter was over. And that was declared in ALL CAPS at Laguna Seca, when a bike that was more than HALF A SECOND slower beat him. The next few races confirmed the end of an era for him.

That, and Ducati seems to be into technology for just...the sake of technology. It's nice, it makes headlines, it employs lots of carbon fiber techs, but it hasn't panned out. They should swallow their pride and try something more "pathetically pedestrian and trite"...and just go back to alloy frames like all the other "boring" bikes.

Anyone who doesn't think Casey's head is inhabited by Rossi...just needs to go back and try to think of the last time a racer lipped off to his opponent in front of the cameras--in front of the whole (English-speaking) WORLD--and showed his backside...and made silly schoolyard threats, such as: "Oh yeah? Well, we'll see about that!" After that, Casey hasn't been the same. Biaggi CONSTANTLY groused about his bike not being the "factory" bike, but even HE never made any threats or disparaging comments against Rossi while on camera in Parc Ferme OR in the post-race interviews. I can't recall him or even Gibernau doing that on their angriest of moments. Not even after Jerez 2005. You just don't do that. It just isn't "the done thing". Yes, Casey has won a couple of races, and yes, he has been fast in practice, but he got the holeshot in Qatar--only to be slower for a good portion of the race, but OK because of the lead he had built up--, and The Almighty gave him the victory in Mugello. That isn't the Casey we once knew. That's a Casey whose head has Rossi in it.

Oh, and I almost forgot: "The form and pace we showed at the end of 2008 is all we'll have to do in order to beat Rossi in 2009."--Casey Stoner

Those are the words of a man who has someone in his head. Or the pressure is just getting to him.

OR, I MIGHT BE COMPLETELY WRONG, AND THE BIKE MIGHT JUST BE THAT BAD. IF HE ENDS UP WITH A YAMAHA OR A HONDA NEXT YEAR, WE MIGHT ALL BE IN FOR A HUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE SURPRISE.

That said, I CAN'T WAIT FOR HIM TO RETURN. He's SUCH an asset to Moto GP.

American Dean Miller, the well-known and respected physiotherapist in Grand Prix racing who has worked with riders and teams since his Team Roberts days up to his present responsibilities with the Rizla Suzuki team, said, when contacted by SPEEDtv.com, “I have never worked with Stoner so I am speaking from the outside, but from what I have seen I have to applaud his decision to rest and try and get his health back. Too many times we have seen riders declared fit for racing when they are carrying injuries or, in this case, when they are too sick to ride these 200 mile per hour motorcycles. I believe that this is a rare case where the rider has done what medical personal and the team should have done for him.”

More here: http://moto-racing.speedtv.com/article/motogp-lorenzo-to-ducati-first-do...

Here's me talking out of my rear :

The kid has been known to suck it up. He raced with broken bones in his hand. He has been racing with his present condition (and still beating most of the field).

He may lack stamina, but I don't think he's mentally weak.

I'm not convinced there is an issue with Ducati. He keeps saying it's a shame about his personal health because the bike feels great. Or at least his press releases did. He has spoken well of all the changes Ducati made. The carbon fibre, new electronics. He adapts to new parts before the rest of the Ducati riders, like the CF swingarm. Ducati is not going to put a lemon under him just so nicky can ride around in 7th instead of 15th.

Personally I like him. To me he has a lot more personality then someone like Dovi with his vanilla waves and camera kisses. Or Pedrosa with his imitation of the queen power drink waves and hiding in his pit facing the corner. I like that he speaks his mind in most cases.

He seems to regret his off track actions/words sometimes and looks very self conscious. When he sees the camera on him he looks guilty then looks down or away.

If you ask me, he pays too much attention to the media which in turn pays too much attention to his 'personality'. He should truly be himself and tell everyone to get bent and suck his tail pipe and try to spank them on the track. Go with it instead of trying to be another camera kisser bore. Now that's a Marlboro man!

I truly hope this condition has a cure. MotoGP loses a lot with Stoner on the bench.

He could always come back and ride for tech3 for 20$ a race and a bus ticket to the next round.

...And I too find it very strange that Casey was officially declared out for three races even though they do know know what the problem is.

I suspect that they (Ducati / Casey) do know and whatever it is, they are given him the time to work through it... and I hope he does.

I wuldn't go as far to say that I am a Casey Stoner fan, some of his comments in the past have seem arrogant to me, but some things also said in the heat of the moment so for me, easily forgivable... what he brings in terms of talent, skill and a desire to win is something MotoGP cannot afford with the dwindling number of participants.

Come back soon Casey, MotoGP needs you.

Since I'm dutch, I don't have any "geographical inclination" (sp?) towards preferring a certain rider.

Although I love to see Nicky perform well just because of his straight-forward hard work,no complaints and no bullshit mentality , every ride in MotoGP should depend on on-track performance. I absolutely agree with the previous poster on that point.

Stoner was doing a mighty fine job both on and off track and nothing more should be expected of him. The last decade, we got spoiled by having Rossi around. Take him out of the equation and IMHO Stoner is one of the 2 or 3 riders that actually has something worthwhile to say in interviews. At least he _HAS_ an opinion about his sport, other riders , rules or whatever.

A lot of the "other" younger guys behave and talk like press-drilled F1 drivers.