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GP Week : Issue 174
It has been a long hard road. Aged 14, he had trouble getting his entries accepted in Australia, he says: he’d had too much success in junior dirt-track. His family sold up and lived rough in England and Spain for a couple of years, where he shone in the national championships. His full-time GP debut came in 2002 on a 250 Aprilia, and he was described at the time as a teenage sensation. If only he could learn to stop crashing so often. Casey seesawed between that class and 125s until 2005. He took his first win on a 125 in 2003. On a 250s his last year was his purple patch, with five wins and second overall to Dani Pedrosa. His MotoGP debut in 2006, on a satellite Honda, reinforced his reputation: astonishingly fast, a touch crash-happy. A cartoon of the time dubbed him the Rolling Stoner. Casey blames mainly tyre problems (in that the factory guys were much favoured by Michelin come race day) for having to try too hard. And he nearly won in Turkey. In the next five years, Stoner’s style became ever more impressive. Out of the pits, straight up to speed. Just so talented, so fast. Even Rossi was impressed. Talking about Stoner’s ability to gain yards through the corner at Phillip Island that now bears his name, Rossi respectfully explained: He enter fast, “but especially he’s able to open the throttle 20 or 30 meters before all the other guys. He puts the bike in over- steer. And he is able to gain for all the next 200 metres before the braking.” In his second season in the top class, he was utterly dominant, winning Ducati’s only title with ten race wins. He added another 13 wins on the red bikes over the next three years. It’s only since he left for Honda and Rossi took his seat that the full scale of his achievement becomes clear. Casey was frequently unbeatable ... on a monster. Casey in two years on a well-balanced and refined Honda has reaped full rewards. All slurs on the frequency of his front- wheel crashes on the Ducati became instead praise for the fact that at least he was prepared to try hard on a bike that was a real handful. And go like a rocket. On the 800 and the 1000cc Honda, he became a serial winner, and very seldom fell. It makes the flip at Indy particularly cruel: but for that he was well in the fight for a valedictory title. And now he’s going. Sunday will be his last bike race. Unless his clear-eyed expressions of resolve are not as sincere as they seem. Unless Doohan is right, and he does come back. Wouldn’t count on it. Looks more likely that Australian V8 Supercar touring car racing will be the next to feel the heat of Stoner’s sheer speed. They’d better watch out. He’s a racing animal. The 2011 World Champions Australia's top V8 Supercar team is about to switch major sponsors, from Vodafone to Red Bull ... and the category has some fascination for Casey ... 39 GPWEEK.com // 39 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: MOTOGP >>> FEATURE