Casey Stoner: Yamaha Or Retirement?

After news broke on the Monday before Brno of Casey Stoner's absence for the three MotoGP races in August and early September, the gaze of the world's press bore down unblinkingly on the Australian. But the intense scrutiny which befell Stoner was both mercifully and surprisingly brief, as by the time the MotoGP circus actually arrived at the Czech circuit, the attention of the press had been distracted by another, perhaps even larger story. News that Ducati - under direction from Marlboro and Philip Morris, who basically pay Ducati's bills - had made an offer to Jorge Lorenzo of between 6 and 8 million euros had the journalists thrashing about like sharks in a bait ball. Stoner's absence quickly shifted from being headline news to become the underlying reason for Ducati's approach to Lorenzo.

Yet as entertaining as it is, the Lorenzo saga - due to come to a head at Indianapolis, though the press in Spain is reporting that the deadline he had to inform both Ducati and Yamaha of his decision was Monday, August 24th - has left the press with too little time to spend searching for answers about Casey Stoner's situation. Admittedly, the press faces extra problems in this regard - Stoner is on the other side of the world from most of the MotoGP press, and even in Australia, the farm Stoner lives on is relatively secluded. Add to this Stoner's ingrained dislike and distrust of the press and his disinclination to talk to the media about his situation, as well as Jorge Lorenzo's skillful manipulation of the press attention he is receiving, and the media might be forgiven for concentrating on the easy story.

The fact that Casey Stoner is not talking to the press does not mean that there is no news. At the most recent occasion at which a large and varied international motorcycle racing press corps gathered - the German IDM championship races at Assen - the paddock was full of rumors from Australia that Jorge Lorenzo might not be the only big name to switch brands. Talk was rife of reports in the Australian media that Casey Stoner was currently engaged in talks with Yamaha about riding for the Japanese squad in 2010, reports that MotoGPMatters.com has confirmed independently through other sources.

Of course, there is one minor problem with such reports: Casey Stoner already has a contract for 2010, to ride for Ducati. But despite very vocal denials of an impending split by Ducati team boss Livio Suppo, there is plenty of reason to believe that the Australian wants out of his contract with the Italian factory.

It has long been known that Stoner is unhappy in Europe, and finds it hard to be away from Australia. Despite having an apartment in Monaco - a beautiful, if rather soulless city state - he does not feel at home there and would rather be back home in Australia. The fact that he does not speak Italian, nor has any intention of learning the language is merely symptomatic of his predicament, rather than a sign of his inability to learn.

Part of the reason for his unhappiness in Europe is the way that the press - most especially the Italian press - have treated him. The general assumption in the Italian press that Casey Stoner only won his 2007 title because of his tires and the electronics on the Ducati has angered him, and Stoner is not a man who is quick to forget, let alone forgive. His frustation at "the Europeans" came strongly to the fore in an interview the Australian did with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Serra back in June.

His digs at "Europeans" and his statement that the only friend he has in the paddock is his wife, Adriana, is again symptomatic of something deeper. When Stoner first came to Ducati, he had praised the atmosphere in the team, but those words have been fading since his championship year. The turning point in the relationship came after the Laguna Seca round, when Ducati announced that Stoner had been diagnosed with mild gastritis and slight anemia. At the Sachsenring, and at Donington Park, Stoner angrily denied that that was the cause of his problems, and claimed that anemia could not cause the extreme fatigue he was suffering, and it had to have another, more serious physical cause. Further tests back home in Australia seemed to reveal that Stoner had caught some kind of viral infection prior to Barcelona, and had pushed himself too hard trying to race before he was fully recovered.

Stoner's sensitivity to the diagnosis of anemia may well be a result of the criticism he has received from within Ducati about his diet and exercise regime. The Australian is reported to go for long periods - 12 to 14 hours - without eating, and then to binge on candy rather than have a proper meal. These reports, it must be said, come from the Spanish press, a source which is not always 100% reliable, though they claimed that they had this information from "sources close to Casey Stoner."

And so Casey Stoner may be feeling that Ducati have - to use a colloquial phrase - thrown him under the bus. With Ducati pointing the finger of blame at his diet, Casey Stoner may feel that the factory is not giving him the support he feels he deserves in these difficult times. Reports that Jorge Lorenzo has been offered between two and three times Stoner's salary to join the factory merely reinforce the feeling that he has been let down by Ducati.

There is plenty of past evidence to support that feeling. Ducati has a long history of dumping riders in haste if they do not get results fast enough to suit the factory. Dennis Noyes, in an article for the Spanish TV station TVE, sums up Ducati's long history of perfidy, in his advice to Jorge Lorenzo about the Spaniard's possible move to Ducati.

So Stoner's growing antipathy to all things Italian, and Ducati in particular, rather limits the Australian's choices. The obvious place to go would be to Yamaha, as the Yamaha team has a very strong English-speaking element, with Valentino Rossi's pit crew being composed almost entirely of Australians. In 2006, Rossi's Australian crew chief Jerry Burgess stated that he would like to work with the Australian, but Yamaha decided against signing Stoner, leaving him with Ducati as his only option, signed at the penultimate round.

At first, Stoner had declared that he would prefer to stay with Ducati, as the Italian squad had given him a chance after Yamaha and Honda had turned him down for a factory ride. But with a rift growing between Stoner and Ducati, the Australian appears to have changed his mind. There have been reliable reports from multiple sources that Casey Stoner is currently engaged in talks with Yamaha, and is trying to get out of his contract with Ducati.

So strong is Stoner's feeling in this matter that, despite still being in training, he is believed to be seriously considering pulling out of MotoGP altogether, instead of continuing to struggle against the straitjacket of duties which riding in a factory team places upon him. As Stoner told the Corriere della Serra, "This is who I am, a racer, not an actor. I want to come here, do a good job, and then go home. That's all." If his only option is to return to Ducati and be forced by Marlboro to take more part in the PR and press work that he so detests, he may prefer just to throw in the towel.

Of course, if Jorge Lorenzo decides to stay at Yamaha, there will be no room at the inn for the Australian. The factory Yamaha seats would be full up, leaving only Repsol Honda as an option. But given the state of Honda's negotiations with Dani Pedrosa, and the stumbling block that is Alberto Puig's role in the team, there may well be an opening, leaving Pedrosa with only Ducati as an option. At Repsol Honda, Stoner would find an English-speaking contingent, though that may require swapping pit crews with Andrea Dovizioso. But so far, unlike the Yamaha talks, MotoGPMatters.com has received no indication that Stoner is talking to Honda as well as Yamaha.

If Casey Stoner did decide to call it a day, it would be a huge loss to MotoGP. Stoner was only one of two men to beat Valentino Rossi to the title, and one of the three who have pushed the Italian to the very limit in the defense of his title. In terms of rider talent, MotoGP has an embarrassment of riches, with Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner all equally capable of winning races on any given day. Take away Casey Stoner, and the racing will be a good deal less interesting, and the title would lose some of its luster.

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Comments

I'm not sure Yamaha is where Casey needs to be. He'll be in Rossi's shadow from day one and will no doubt, again, feel like he's not getting the support he needs (and probably won't be). Seriously, Yamaha won't input his ideas before Valentino's, or put his developmental preferences before Valentino's... He'll be miserable and, knowing Casey, he'll let us know how unhappy his is and how "unfairly" he's being treated at every opportunity.

Casey needs to be the #1 rider wherever he goes. He's got complete control at Ducati and that's not likely to change until someone else can show consistant competitiveness on that Desmo. He needs to decide if he can deal with politics that come with it--which from my seat don't appear "out of the norm". Honda could be a decent choice, too, if Pedrosa leaves... but Yamaha would be a disastor waiting to happen.

Immensely interesting article.

WOW.

I think that Rossi would still be finishing where he always is, but Stoner on a Yamaha would--in my opinion--be a bigger threat than Lorenzo on a Ducati.

I'm not sure that Casey cares a ton about being "number 1", since he just doesn't seem to care too much of a hoot about team politics between riders. In his own words, he wants to show up, win, and go home. From that I hear him saying that--this might be misinterpreted on my part--he doesn't seem to worry about labels within the team. He alone knows how to ride the bike. It's not like he's gonna play second fiddle to ANY teammate at Ducati as long as he knows how to ride the bike. If Lorenzo is his new teammate, why would Casey care about who is "#1"? All that counts is who gets results.

Now, on to Yamaha...

With Yamaha, I don't think the "#1" title would mean as much to him as just being able to show up, ride the (arguably) best bike in the paddock, kick some butt on said best bike,--if not win-- then get back to Australia as soon as possible, leaving the whole team politics issue in his rearview mirror. I think he's a great rider, and he'd be even more capable on a better machine (Yamaha) than the Ducati.

Wanting to be "#1" on a team leads to--in my estimation, potentially TRAGIC--situations like Bautista taking his desire to be "number 1" to the extreme...and signing with Suzuki. To my tiny-minded understanding, I'd rather be on a satellite great bike, than be "THE #1 RIDER" on a truly uncompetitive bike.

I believe that Casey on a Yamaha would be as fast or faster than Jorge on a Ducati. No, Casey doesn't like head-to-head dogfighting, but he's FAST on a machine that is tremendously difficult.

Casey on a Yamaha would be...somewhere between interesting and horrifying to the other riders.

If Lorenzo is--in my opinion--foolish enough to leave his title hopes in return for lots of money, then I think that Casey on a Yamaha would be able to beat him.

This could get really interesting...really quickly.

Just thinking out loud. I can't quite tell if there's a satellite Ducati team with an opening, but seeing how the Ducati was what got Stoner straight enough for a championship, and knowing his need to be "number one" would a sat-team be an option at this point?

I agree heading to Fiat wouldn't be anything but a brief (and miserable) solo year stop for Stoner. So that seems, while plausible, a horrible idea.

I've never really been able to come out one way or the other on Stoner. On one hand I respect his desire to race the bike and head home, but on the other I think he's misread his job description. If he thinks those bike go 'round the circuit all over the world on the backs of motivated racers alone, he'd be well-served to hop off the bike from time-to-time and have a look at the livery on the side. Those are not cheap logos and they have responsibilities associated with them to the man/woman. None of us know how much the teams downplay the rider's need to promote certain products a rider may have a moral issue with, but I'm sure Marlboro wasn't expecting Casey to do nothing.

And it's that part of Stoner's personality that makes me a tad bit more suspicious/skeptical about his illness than I feel good about. I'd hate to bet against anyone that claims illness, but this seems a bit too contrived at the exact right moment and leads me to think Stoner's not doing the Australian image of male toughness a lick of good.

Suck it up Casey. Do your job. You signed the contract. Do the right thing.

Stoner. He was written off as a crasher when he was on LCR I believe. But before he would crash, he would be riding the bike for all it was worth. TIRES he got would not be the same Spec as top teams. So they would degrade earlier than the ones he tried in practice. Causing him a problem way before he was thinking there would be an issue. Randy De Puniet MAY have had the same issue. Seeing that he too has stopped crashing anywhere NEAR as much with new tires, (Bridgestone).

Yet Stoner bashed people for saying the Michelins were inconsistant when he went to Ducati and started winning. Now everyone is on the same Tire, the other Brands have finally caught up all the way and even surpassed Ducati a little. The fight has definitely gotten harder. Rossi is Rossi. Pedrosa pops up here and there. But Lorenzo has a burning desire to win and is singularly focused on doing so. Stoner has to contend with both Rossi and Stoner who were both at one point at least 1.5 seconds faster than anyone else on the Track. If Stoner was there it would be no doubt he could be up there with them. But this 'sickness' would drain him before the end, robbing fans of a 3 way fight.

Stoner has always been the best Fighter and gives some of the best quotes of any racer. But if it takes this long to find out what is wrong with him by TOP Doctors in the World shows it has got to be a mental thing. The Mental Pressure that all these top Racers are under is always underestimated by anyone that is not doing it. Rossi and Lorenzo are the strongest mentally, as they have both proved all year long. Stoner will have to find someway to break through the barrier. Hope he does because if not, no matter how it is explained short of a Fatal Disease he will always be know as Mentally broken.

Stoner is not a favorite but anyone that has raced has got to respect the man's skill. His speed on the Ducati has been awe inspiring. Hopefully he will not go down in history as another "Rossi-ed" character. He has proven he can comeback and win. Hopefully he will do just that no matter what team he ends up on. Gotta keep the Tension up in the Championship!

The only thing broken was the seven year win streak Rossi had going at Mugello. If that's mentally broken, sign me up, I want to be broken too!

Stoner should wring an agreement out of Kawasaki similar to what Rossi did with Yamaha for near unlimited resources in development. It could revive Kawasaki's presence in MotoGP if he were successful. It would also help keep some manufacturer variety in the series.

While I have never been a fan of Stoner, I respect his ability to do well on that vicious bike. If he were to develop a successful entry for Kawasaki, or even Suzuki, his legend would be well burnished.

I do agree with bdegroodt's assertion that promotion is, unfortunately, part of his job so he needs to suck it up a bit. I would be similarly grossed out by shilling for any large corporation but his alternatives are nil.

Good article, as always.

The difference is that Yamaha had already begun investing massive amounts in their bike before talks with Rossi had even begun. In prep for their 50th anniversary, they brought in Furusama and had made some significant changes to the bike as well as building several new motor configurations. Yamaha then went looking for a rider to seasl the deal. Rossi didn't turn Yamaha around, he was just the final piece in a larger plan.

Kawasaki is leaving rather than planning a massive effort. Even if they felt they could get Rossi, I doubt they would put the resources into development that Yamaha did.

Long time Ducati fan.

I find it hard to believe the italians dont see Stoner for what he is, one of the two best riders in the world. Remember this, in his sophomore year he took the title. Dont go into it was this or that the fact remains as we all know the rider is the most important part in the equation. Has Lorenzo won the title this year (being his 2nd year)?

What would really be interesting is to see how Casey would go on the Yamaha with Burges behind him. I believe Rossi is the greatest rider we have seen but I also believe there is a reason why Rossi didn't want casey at Yamaha back before he rode the bucking red stallion.

Look dont get me wrong the top four riders in the world are all great and I just hope we have the privilege of watching them all go head to head, healthy and on great equipment for years to come.

Get well soon Casey motogp misses you.

Ciao
Leigh

another card dropped in the Tech 3 pile. I really don't see Val taking Casey as a team mate, I do see him being welcomed at Tech 3 with open arms at a discounted price!

I guess we will all know soon enough!

Well, talk may have been rife about Aussie media reports of Stoner going to Yamaha, but as a keen follower of motoGp and an Aussie I can say definitively that the media silence down here is deafening - the mainstream media don't know what motoGp IS, it gets less coverage than a Lithuanian regional farnarkling competition. Our leading newspaper has a motoring section with a dedicated motorcycling (and scooters... that tells you all you need to know..) with the latest hot-n-happening motoGp news being the Assen race....

So much for rumour.

Oscar is spot on, MotoGP gets one column following each round in Sydney's largest newspaper/online and that's about it. That doesn't mean no-one knows who he is though, but there has been literally nothing in the major media outlets regarding Stoner's health and future prospects - fascinating given that he's one of our best known sportsmen and was annointed 2007 Young Australian of the Year. Even the latest editorial of Australian Motorcycle News (nothing like the UK's tabloid-ish MCN), although completely dedicated to Stoner and his well-being, pretty much just says that they have had zero luck in getting any further information out of him or his family, and wishes him well.

I suspect that this is not going to change for some time (say, the next two races), given Stoner's propensity to say it like it is. He's gone to ground, now we wait.

So Lorenzo will be there another 12 months. Still not good news for Stoner if indeed these reports are true about his diet and training. Between Stoner, the bosses in Bologna, and his crew there seems and has seemed like a lot of tension. I'm not sure Stoner's best option wouldn't be a clean break and trying to start new on another team. Problem is that he has few options this year or next and will likely have to start from scratch with himself. He'll have to refocus on his love of the sport, rededicate himself to training and eating properly and make the best of his time away from Oz. If he can't do that then at some point he may be happier in life not riding motorcycles for a living.

I suppose with JL resigning with Fiat we will have to wait for Tech 3's 2010 riders to be announced next.

I suppose Marlboro could chase Spies with buckets full of CASH next and try and get him on a second team Duc. if Casey does'nt pan out?

I guess we'll have to look back to the track for some excitement. maybe Elias will ride for his career like he did back at Estoril in 2006 and give us a last lap 4 way scrap.

Go Casey!

Im tired of this Rossi this Rossi that stuff. I wish human instinct didnt always subconsciously support the status quo. There will be other awesome riders in the future, riding crazy machines a million miles an hour, 2 wheel drive, super conducting capacitors, or powered by tiny solar panels on levitating tracks weve never heard of - you would have to be naive to think any different. I think fans want Rossi to win so bad cuz if he leaves its like their own mortality is in question...the end of an era....the end of any grounding they had in their limited knowledge of the sport....the beginning of feeling like an old guy/girl!.

...dare we support any new riders and pin our hopes on them....our senses tell us "im scared to buck the trend".

Just dont lose sight of the forest for the trees....theres a lot of skilled riders out there struggling for machinery and support.

I feel like i have to cut and paste this comment after every article.

When Rossi's gone, people will talk of the next "who's best".

Currently, the status quo is that there is one rider against who ALL others are measured. Not opinion. Just fact.

We CAN "buck the trend" and go buy some "ONDE 2000" hats and shirts--along with our Canepa souvenirs--if we like. Rossi is the best of the current era--probably ever. We are blessed to be fans in this era. People aren't on a bandwagon. They're just acknowledging fact.

We can support any rider we want, but NONE of them will amount to much until the most incredibly likeable, most talented, best rider ever--and the guy who regularly BEATS ALL THE OTHERS--retires. Everyone can like whoever they like, but riders off the podium--near or far off, regularly getting beaten--are anticlimactic until they get closer to the front.

People like those who are likeable, are attracted to that which is attractive. Everybody loves a winner, especially one who isn't arrogant, recalcitrant, taciturn, or--come to that--a rider who's a loser, plain and simple.

As for how many wheels are driven, speeds, etc., that makes NO difference to the fact that, with the technology afforded us today, we have the best ever. In fact, further technological control over the operation of the bike IS THAT WHICH THE RIDERS SEEK TO AVOID IN THE INTEREST OF NOT REMOVING THE RIDER AND HIS SKILL FROM THE EQUATION. Watching a computer drive a two-wheel-drive bike around a track at HUGE speed WON'T be exciting AT ALL. Watching a RIDER with some CONTROL over his bike lapping at great speed IS EXCITING. If the technology increases, that will only underline how great the rider's ability needed to be before the microprocessors took over everything and both wheels pulled the bikes and their "robot passengers" around the corners. Further computer control...oh, that'll be REALLY exciting stuff...

I suppose people who don't cheer for Sutil, Alguersuari, and Fisichella are stuck on the bandwagon, too. Or maybe Heidfeld. Or Badoer. Or Trulli.

People like winners.

Similarly, there's every reason why Rossi is the measure of all right now. He has no weaknesses--even his STARTS are great now--and he's poetry to watch. And he's funny. And he's friendly.

It isn't permanent, but it IS the here and now.

When he's gone, we'll either stop watching altogether, or we'll cheer for the next crop of talent.

Most of us here missed Pele, Jesse Owens, Babe Ruth, Jim Thorpe, Joe Lewis, many of the fights of Muhummad Ali, George Foreman, and Joe Lewis, Sandy Koufax, Ty Cobb, and Secretariat. We're watching the two-wheeled equivalent today. That makes us blessed.

I'm sure that Canepa, Espargaro, Takahashi, De Angelis, Vermeulen, Talmacsi and others have shirts and hats for sale to those who want them...

People enjoy the sun and moon because it stands for friendly, unassuming, unparalleled greatness.

That makes perfect sense, not bandwagon-dwellers.

Thanks grandpa but i dont really need to know why your motogp season review pages with Rossi on them are all stuck together.

I havent had coffee with the guy so i dont know what kind of a person he is....but it might take more than a smile and "I'a have very much the fun" to convince some people - obviously not all.

Just saying theres other riders and technology coming through all the time that need support...

if they dont get it and we 'game' the system towards anyone rider and deny them competition as a self perpetuating myth then that would suck.

Theres already enough watered-down travelling circus motorsport acts out there.

Obviously its never going to be fair, and it sucks when people celebrate if someone runs out of gas or if someone falls (never much humility there), when a new guy has no testing time comes in the mid pack and people say how crap he is, when poorer teams can no longer have the advantage of custom tires, when backyard tinkerers and genius' are being squeezed out by backroom rule deals years in advance. Obviously some cultures can adapt better to results like the analogy of Lorenzo falling and cheering for Rossi as the winner with respect to a soccer game coming down to some 'tripping theatrics' and a penalty kick. Other cultures - mainly in the New World arent used to claiming victory like that.

unfortunately we already know that most teams have already thrown in the towel and been stuck with whatever developments they have made and are trying to eek out a living until better economic times let them test and practice more to make improvements. So its as good a time as any for a little revolution and look deeper into rider talents than what is just the superficial.

To each their own. Please dont take this out of context as before, your arguing over points i never made (badgering me for encouraging support of other riders and to embrace changes in technology - like Rossi needs more money) - go polish your Rossi AGV helmet or something.

Tempers seem to be getting a little heated, and the debate seems to be headed in the wrong direction. All parties are making valid points, yet couching their opinions in language which is verging towards the inflammatory. There's no need for that. There are a million rider forums where you can express those opinions.

So a request: Kindly count to ten before posting responses to each other, and leave the withering scorn out. It's your arguments that count; idiots can think up insults, it takes intelligence to formulate an intelligent argument. Please stick to the latter, and I shall delete the former.

You're right.

GANDON: I'm sorry if I came off as being offensive and/or as if I badgered you. I don't EVER make attempts to cultivate or keep enemies in any way, shape, or form. So, I hereby offer my sincere apology.

David: Same story. I apologise for not counting to 10. 9.5 didn't do it. Perhaps I'll count to 11 in the future. I'm not there yet, but I'm learning. And trying. I promise.

p.s. GANDON: "I'a have very much the fun" is PRICELESS. I just read it out loud--and, indeed, laughed out loud--for something like the 70th time. That is just...epic stuff. You ROCK.

p.p.s. No. Make that the 71st time...still laughing...