After crashing out at the Le Mans Grand Prix this weekend, a visibly upset Casey Stoner spoke to the press, to give his side of events. The Marlboro Ducati rider was upset, but most of all, he was mystified why he had crashed. There was nothing in the data to explain it, and he did not believe he had done anything wrong. He spent nearly 15 minutes talking to a throng of reporters in a crowded Ducati hospitality unit. Below is a nearly complete transcript of that conference, with only some sections where Stoner repeated himself removed.
Q: Front end Casey?
Casey Stoner: Yeah, I lost the front end for about 15 to 20 meters before it actually went down. I'd pretty much ground through my elbow protection there trying to keep it up, but it was a lost cause. After a while the rear end just followed it round and it was game over.
You know I'd pushed that bike around really hard all weekend, because we didn't want the same problems that we'd had at Jerez and Qatar. I pushed it as hard as I possibly could, and it never faltered, it never wobbled, it never did anything. The rear had a couple of moments which we were trying to improve all weekend, but nothing with the front.
And so we're going through a corner that relatively you don't put much pressure on the tire, there's not a lot to do there once you get into the corner, it's just a matter of smoothly coming out and then picking the bike up for the exit. We get to the most unimportant part of the corner on probably the whole circuit and I just lose the front.
You know, to be honest I just have no idea and I'm hugely disappointed because we knew we had the pace today, and it could have been a nice fight today between myself and Jorge, I believe I could have run his pace, but he made the others look silly today, hats off to him, he did the job and I had to pick myself up out of the gravel trap.
We didn't break the handlebars! [Everyone laughs] But just as a nice tease, the bike did an end-over-end so I couldn't have finished the race anyway. Just my luck, you know, the handlebars don't break but everything else does.
This is the same chassis that we had last year, it's not like we've changed the chassis hugely for this year, we've only changed the engine. Maybe it's just taking a little bit more weight with the extra traction and losing it like that.
But as I said, I was pushing it around all weekend. And then when we're not pushing it, it just decides to go away on me, so it's becoming a little bit frustrating, but I guess I've just got accept responsibility for it, get over it and get ready for next weekend, because I've made things very difficult for myself this year, maybe impossible. So we're just going to take it race by race now, and do what I've come out to do and try and win races.
Q: Do you think the extra traction pushes the front more than last year?
CS: We could maybe understand that if it continued to happen throughout the practice sessions when we had good grip. We should have had some other warnings. But nothing.
Like I said, the bike's been working fantastic all weekend, absolutely beautiful on this track, and like I said, I was the only one capable of staying with Jorge. Whether I could have or not I don't know. But lap-time-wise, by far we were the only ones capable of doing it. So, it's just frustrating knowing that as well.
In Qatar we were fast enough, here we were fast enough, in Jerez we were fast enough to possibly be there for the podium, but again we lost the front [at Jerez] a little bit, managed to save that one. Tried to save it here [at Le Mans}, but, you know, nothing. We can say maybe that it's the engine giving us a little bit too much traction, but today in the race, because we scrubbed the tires in the morning warmup - the rear, the front I didn't have a problem with, but the rear felt very slippery, we didn't have a lot of grip there, so maybe it's the opposite, that we didn't have enough grip in the middle of the turn and it wanted to close.
But to be honest I can't explain it. It's the same bike as last year, just the carbon swingarm instead of the aluminium swingarm. But that's nothing to do with it, because we ran the carbon last year with great success. Same chassis as last year, just a different engine, and it's just really hard to explain, also to myself or anybody, why it's happening. Maybe it's my fault, maybe I'm making mistakes, so if I can understand what I'm doing, then maybe I can improve that.
I pushed to catch up with the front group, because Nicky was dropping back a little, so I tried to get past to close the gap, and by the first turn, I had already caught back up again. So I was relaxed, I was ready, just making sure that nobody was getting away from the front, and then all of a sudden, the front goes. You know, it seemed like it was just your normal little slip at first, but you normally catch that. So it slipped at first, I caught it, and then immediately, it went again, and that's the one that just dragged on and on, and I just couldn't pick it up. You know, it was not as spectacular as Doohan's but a similar situation where it was just going, going, going and then there was no coming back from it.
Q: Any idea about the route to follow to solve this problem? Maybe to change the way of working?
CS: Not really, no. We would have changed something if we'd have felt the differences in the practice session. I mean, if we go to the next track and we don't have any problems, what are we looking for, what are we trying to change? If we don't find problems, there's no point trying to fix it. So, I don't know. Maybe we can try running a different pressure in the front tire, something like that.
But like I said, we've been looking for a problem all this weekend, we've been looking for a problem. We were wondering why it had been happening already this season. By the time we got to race, we weren't worried about this issue. We've been trying all weekend to find something wrong with the front end, but it's been perfect, it's been great, so there's no reason for it. As for the championship, it's almost impossible, so we'll just see.
I already had to get race wins anyway. To be honest, the championship is so far away at this stage of the season. I guess we've got to try and get my confidence back up there so I don't start losing the front again. We'll see what happens, but I might just have to finish a couple of races, and then get going again. But I'll be giving everything at these next few races, see what I'm capable of.
Q: Nicky said you had a very short memory for bad moments. Is this true? Does it only last for a few moments in your mind? Or does it take time to recover from a psychological point of view?
CS: No, it doesn't take time to recover. If you're mature enough, you know the past is the past, now go to the present, it's a different track and a different day. So we just have to look to the future and see what happens. But I'm not worried about what's happened already.
If we go to Mugello and we start having front end issues again, then I guess I'll be a little cautious in the race. But it's normally when I back off that I crash, so maybe I should just go as hard and as fast as I can to the end, and see what happens. But there's nothing too much to think about really, you think about it for half an hour or an hour, you get everything out of your system and go on to the next one.
Q: How big a shock was it to find yourself crashing on a day when everything seemed to be going so well?
CS: I mean, as soon as it went, because it took that long, I just couldn't believe it. I was sliding towards the gravel trap, just distraught. So many things had already gone through my head before I even reached the gravel. I was just wondering why. All weekend the front end had been perfect, I had to worry more about the rear. For it to go, it really caught me unawares, I wasn't expecting it. In Jerez, I'd been expecting it, I'd been ready for it. Here, I just wasn't ready for it, because the bike had been so good all weekend. Don't know what to say really, that's just the way it's going.
I wasn't really thinking about the championship before, we're that far behind, we have to start winning races before we can start thinking OK, we're there. You know, there's nothing I'm really thinking about at this stage, just whatever I can do to repair the damage and try and get going.
But it seems like I'm being teased, you know? I go to the first round and snap the handlebar and can't finish the race, even though I probably could have probably still caught quite a bit of ground in that first race. And this race, we don't snap the handlebar but snap just about everything else on the bike. So maybe third time lucky and next time we won't crash. We'll see how we go.
Q: Have you already had a chance to look at the data from the crash?
CS: We don't need to. I mean, my team would have called me and spoken to me if I'd done something wrong. You know, it's the first thing I want to know, if I made a mistake, tell me. It's the best thing that I can know. The easiest thing to fix is myself rather than the bike. But if nobody's said anything to me then I didn't do anything different to any other lap, I was probably slower than other laps because I was following people, so there's nothing I can really explain, you know. We can only look at it from the next races at different tracks, so we just have to look onwards and upwards.
Q: Lorenzo said he felt he was becoming more mature, and in a way, you said something similar about yourself. Do you think you would have reacted differently to this, two or three years ago? Not give a press conference, let's say?
CS: [Laughs] I'd have preferred it today as well! [Everyone laughs] When you've had a day like today, the last thing you want to do is stuff like this. But, yes, Jorge's getting more mature, and I'm getting more mature, but crashing more, so maybe I should go back to my immature days....
But Jorge did a great job today, he did a fantastic job last race, I think last race was a much better win than today. Today was half expected, he's been able to outpace Valentino since his thumb's come half good. It's pretty much been him who's been the one to beat in the last two races. We've got to do something else, but we know we have the pace to win, I've just got to start staying on the bike and see what we can do at the end of the race, rather than the start.