Since witnessing first hand Casey Stoner’s utter domination of the Australian MotoGP round last year, I have been meaning to write a post about him. Now, with the announcement of his retirement at the end of the season it seems even more timely.
In 2008, I had described Stoner as one of the “upper echelon” of riders – a status that appeared to be too “high-brow” to catch on. The four I named in that post (Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Rossi and Stoner) went on to earn the nick-name of “the Aliens“. I wasn’t alone in recognising that they were a cut above the rest. How good are they? Since the beginning of the 2008 season, “the aliens” have won 72 of the 74 races held. On their day, any one of those four riders would be untouchable. Plagued by injuries and bad luck, Dani Pedrosa is the only one of them not to win a World Championship in MotoGP. (yet?)
There are a lot of fans in MotoGP who only begrudginly accept Sonter’s ability. Ironically, it has been Rossi’s dismal performances on the Ducati that have served to highlight just how good Stoner is. The problem that a lot of fans have with him appears to be that Stoner is “just a racer”. He isn’t the showman and extrovert that Rossi is. Stoner’s detractors have nick-named him “moaner-Stoner” which personally, I feel is unwarranted. The thing I have enjoyed about the “off-track” Casey Stoner is that he is always honest about things. When he did not do well he would answer the press questions as truthfully as he could. Some fans saw this as “making excuses” and maybe it was, but the answers were never phrased as why he didn’t win, only why he didn’t do better.
Stoner attracts fans based on one thing only – His raw talent and speed on the bike. He has never been about beating the record books, nor winning admiration of fans through off-track theatrical performances. As a marketable product, that puts him at a disadvantage, but marketing people are clever and the best work with what they get. When I wrote about Valentino Rossi, I mentioned that not many former world champions re-win a championship after they lose a couple. Rossi and Agostini were rarities. Now, you can add Casey Stoner to that list.
If you are a fan of MotoGP and your home event has not happened yet this season, grab the chance to witness one of the fastest riders the sport has ever known. Until you see him riding live, you can’t fully appreciate his extraordinary talent.