It has been three and a half years since Casey Stoner entered the MotoGP paddock. “I think it was Mugello in 2018 when I was last here,” he said. He arrived in Portimao yesterday and the first stop was at the Ducati garage to say hello to his former crew chief Christian Gabarini. “That was my whole world for many years – he said – a lot of people, you know, there are family and friends in this paddock, we missed everyone, to be honest.”
The Australian smiled and relaxed, but admitted that he had had a tough time lately with serious health problems.
“Since I left my testing role at Ducati, I’ve had my shoulder reconstruction, which has been fantastic. I’ve struggled massively with my health and got so far that I couldn’t get up from the couch for five months. I was struggling a lot mentally, physically, so I’ve tried to deal with the situation for the past three or four years. “
“I’m never more than 60% of my usual self, I’ve learned to save my energy”
How are you doing at the moment
“I was trying to learn how to save energy all day. I felt better in December / January and thought I can do it now. Then I hit March / April and went backwards again. Sometimes I’m extremely exhausted and can’t explain it to myself, then other days I feel better. I am never more than 60% of my usual self. I had to learn to walk everywhere, which I hate, I went jogging everywhere. “
Do you miss not being in good shape?
“I wasn’t competitive in anything. I miss any kind of rivalry with others because I have been my competition for the last 4 years. I wanted to ride a mountain bike, get a good level and be competitive and serious, but unfortunately it got more difficult. “
A physical problem is limiting you, as is the case with Marquez, even if your situation is very different. How much influence do injuries have on a driver?
“Injuries definitely affect you, that’s part of racing. Something that I felt I was good at and Marc is good at pushing that into the background. We all make mistakes, but the most important thing is to learn from them. I was never really scared, I never wanted to crash. It’s different for Marc, he comes from a major injury, for a very long time with many complications, that will take its toll and time to get over it mentally and physically. When I had my ankle surgery and wasn’t allowed to walk for a few months, it will take his arm and shoulder so long to build up. There is no way to recreate riding a MotoGP motorcycle as much as you can train. Then of course there is the fear that it will happen again. It’s impossible to know what Marc is going through, but it’s certainly tough for him. “
“Marquez was good at solving Honda’s problems with his talent”
The Honda doesn’t seem in good shape either.
“Everyone at Marc knows that he is incredibly talented, he had a reaction timing that is second to none, that’s why he could always catch it so quickly after losing the front. One mistake he and his crew may have made in the early years could be that he was very strong on the brakes when he turned the bike, it was just good on the brakes. Even when I was testing with Honda, a lot of emphasis was placed on the braking and the stability of the brakes. Marc was good at solving the problems. “
Is Ducati on the verge of becoming world champion again?
“For a long time they were on the verge of having the full package and getting the job done. But if you have a Yamaha that produces a great package year after year, you have Marquez who, when you know he’s fit and healthy, on the Honda. You are very hard to beat. So you need the whole package to work together. And that can be difficult at times. I think you know if everything goes the way they want, they can win a championship. “
“I would like to try the Yamaha, my biggest competition”
If you could ride a MotoGP bike again, which one would you choose?
“Probably the Yamaha, because it was my biggest competition, the hardest bike to beat. It would be interesting to know what I saw during the race, how it actually felt, so it would be interesting to get an understanding of whether it would be possible to drive it differently from my competitors. “
Don’t you miss riding a MotoGP bike at all?
“I especially enjoyed training and qualifying on the weekends. Certainly not when testing. But practice and qualifying were always fun when everything came together. And then you just have to go as fast as you can for a lap or two. If you did everything right, it was much more exciting for me than ever to win a race. Because in the races you never drove as hard as you could, you always had to deal with tires, fuel … you always have the situation under control. “
“It was fantastic to race against Valentino, I learned a lot from him”
Have you caught up with your old rival Valentino?
“I haven’t caught up with him this weekend. If Valentino still loved his racing, there is no reason not to race. I wouldn’t make it myself. Because for me it meant winning a race. I still accepted that sometimes I couldn’t win, but at the same time I got up to race in the morning to win. And so I would really have a hard time not running competitively at the top and I missed Valentino at the front. I think for the past two or three years I would have loved to see him fight the guys. I think the race could have been incredible with that. “
How do you remember your rivalry with him?
“You know, me and Valentino had some amazing fights, we had a fantastic rivalry. Some good and bad points, some things went up to me and others really didn’t. But one thing was, you know, it’s fantastic to drive Valentino, and I learned from him, whether on the track or off the track, with his media. He was always very accomplished and very clever, very cunning. So I had to learn a hell of a lot. I am very happy for him now, with the news of his baby, it is the next chapter in his life, I am sure he will enjoy it. “
“I’m excited to see what Bezzecchi will do in MotoGP”
When you look at the young drivers, who impresses you?
“A lot of talents come through Nobody can ignore Acosta, it’s just amazing what he’s done this year It’s impressive to see someone of his maturity his age, Garcia was good to see too. Fernandez and Remy did a fantastic job as well Bezzecchi I think he has something special that I haven’t seen this year. I would like to see what he can do in MotoGP ”.
Young drivers have been criticized for their behavior on the track, what do you think?
“It needs more clarity and definitive decisions and tougher sanctions. In my opinion there is no longer any edge of the track and it just goes on, it’s just green paint. For me, the worst thing that can happen in racing is that there is no run-off. People are no longer afraid because there is no edge of the track. Everyone has to learn to have more respect for one another ”.
And what about the technical regulations?
“I think they drive up the price of development, but we’re basically turning it into Formula 1. I would like some parts to be gone, including electronics, a big reduction. I want drivers to slip, make mistakes and people fight for grip. It wouldn’t take much, overtaking would actually be better because it doesn’t just brake. “
You were the last rider to win the MotoGP championship with two different bikes, why is it so difficult for so many riders to switch bikes?
“I’m not in that person or their mind, in their system of getting things under control. For me, I knew up to the last half second how I could go fast with almost any bike relatively easily. I’ve been happier to adapt, a lot of riders say the bike doesn’t suit me or my style. All bikes have positive characteristics, it’s about compromises with the setup and how it wants to be ridden. For me the biggest thing was that I wasn’t proud that I wanted everything to work for me. “