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GP Week : Issue 174
D ucati Corse chief Filippo Preziosi is careful with his words. So you have to take his description of his most successful rider seriously. Asked why it was that Stoner was so successful on the Ducati while even a talent as great as Rossi was floundering, there’s just one sentence. “Casey is a genius.” They come along every so often. Hailwood. Roberts. Spencer, Schwantz and Rainey. And of course Rossi. This one, this latest genius of speed, balance, courage and control, is one of the true giants. And he will ride his final MotoGP next Sunday. Aged just 27, his genius in full flower and who knows what future feats possible, he will try and win one last race. Then hit the kill switch. It is a signal event in grand prix history. And almost unprecedented. Only once before has a reigning champion at the height of his powers abruptly turned his back on the sport. That was Gary Hocking in 1962, after the loss of too many close friends. John Surtees also left while winning, but only reluctantly, having run out of options (to the benefit of F1). Hocking walked away mid-season in response to an emotional storm. Stoner’s decision is much more cold-blooded. More rational. More self- willed, a characteristic Casey has always displayed, to the point of being cussed. It’s impossible not to respect the maturity of it. It’s impossible not to regret what racing will lose. Casey is unique. Nobody else rides a MotoGP bike like he does. Aggressive but precise; impulsive but calculating. And with an understanding of adhesion second to none. The biggest losers will also be the biggest winners: the riders he will leave behind. All of them – Jorge, Dani, Vale and the rest – will find it one step easier to win races with Casey not there. But whoever wins the title will have done so in his absence. Mick Doohan suffered the same syndrome, in reverse: he hit peak form just after the career endings of Wayne Rainey and Kevin Schwantz. Through no fault of his own, he was bereft of truly worthy opponents. He deserved better, and doubtless would have gone even faster. Doohan was forced into retirement by injury. Likewise all the 1990s champions: Rainey, Schwantz and (indirectly) Criville. At Phillip Island last weekend, Doohan was still predicting that Casey might return. “To see him here yesterday riding the way he’s riding, he’s certainly got the love to be out there and to push the bike. I can understand a little bit. Towards the end of my career, at the start of each season it was harder to motivate yourself, but once you got into it, it was fine. He’s been in the World Championship for a long time. I think he just needs to sit back, take a breath. You never know. He could come back; he’s young enough.” Andrew Fox hands Casey Stoner his latest trophy for winning his sixth Phillip Island in a row Casey Stoner - one of the only ones to be able to tame the Ducati - leads the start of the 2010 Aragon Grand Prix 38 GPWEEK.com // 38 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: MOTOGP >>> FEATURE