Will Casey Stoner deliver in his final race?
This is Casey Stoner’s swansong on two wheels.
The 27-year-old is popular because of his fearless riding style, which is at its pulsating best around the swooping high-speed oceanside track, rather than his personality.
The kid from Kurri Kurri is the least outgoing and expressive motorcycle champion since fellow Australian world champion Mick Doohan, who was famously taciturn during his five-year reign from 1994 to 1998.
Casey Stoner made his name, and achieved the first of his two world championships, on bucking broncos called Ducatis that no rider has been able to subdue. Even Italian superstar Valentino Rossi, the outsized character who replaced Stoner at the Italian team last year, has been humbled by the rambunctious red rockets.
Stoner disproved the theory that he was a one-trick pony by winning his second MotoGP title last year astride a much less frenetic Honda.
His Japanese bike’s better manners haven’t restrained his exuberance, which is perhaps more apparent around the 4.4 kilometre Phillip Island course than anywhere else.
Having announced in May his surprise decision to retire at the end of the season, which finishes in Valencia, Spain, in two weeks, citing his disillusionment with the constant travel and intrusion of the 18-race MotoGP series, he badly tore the ligaments in his right ankle in a crash at Indianapolis in August.
His mystery illness in 2009, which ended up be diagnosed as lactose intolerance, left him flat didn’t tarnish his image at home because he still rose to the occasion at Phillip Island.
Although he can be outspoken when it suits him, he is generally uncomfortable with the media and especially withdrawn.
At a media conference on Thursday where he talked about being honoured with the renaming of the track’s third turn as Stoner Corner, no questions were allowed, and the moderated interview lasted less than seven minutes.
Asked to send a message to all the fans coming to farewell him, Stoner hesitated and then looked to his PR minder. After a huddled conversation, the interviewer was informed that he didn’t want to respond – even though I understand the video clip was requested by the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, which promotes the Phillip Island MotoGP.
He might be in for a rude awakening if he accepts a drive in V8 Supercars next year, which grants fans and media far more access than he is used to in the MotoGP bubble.
by Terence Johns