insight - Casey Stoner
Written by Chris Anderson All images © Repsol Honda Team
Occupation - MotoGP Rider
The 2012 MotoGP season begins at the Losail International Circuit, Qatar on April 6-8, and all eyes will be on the current world champion, Repsol Honda Team rider Casey Stoner.
“I’ve always enjoyed the freedom you feel on a bike,” muses 26-year-old Casey Stoner on why he got into the sport. “But I love being outdoors, so I try to take part in whatever I can. My fishing is very special to me, but I also really enjoy cycling and mountain biking.”
It is motorbikes, however, that have helped Casey Stoner make his name. The Australian is currently looking ahead to a new MotoGP season, beginning in Qatar on April 6 at the Losail International Circuit, and taking in another 17 venues before climaxing in November. Casey will be the rider to beat, entering the season as reigning champion for the second time in his career after a storming 2011.
“I think the main difference, for me, is that I feel this championship has been recognised more,” he says of his 2011 win. “In 2007, many people thought it was merely a matter of the best bike, but they didn’t attribute the success to me. This time around, I think they’ve seen my talent, and of course the Honda is a great bike, but they’ve seen that my talent made the difference.”
Also making a difference this time around is the fact that Casey will enter the season as a father, with his wife, Adriana, giving birth to the couple’s first child in February. “I’m not sure how it will be with the baby,” he says of the coming season. “Adriana has been with me at every race since 2007 except for Japan last year. She will miss a few this year for sure, but we’ll try and all be together when we can, we’ll just see how it goes.”
Hopefully, Casey won’t miss the support of his wife too much, as he’ll need to stay on top of his game to beat such riders as Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, and Ben Spies. Rossi, in particular, must be a challenge, as he has been crowned champion nine times and is a name synonymous with the sport. “I think a lot of riders take joy in beating Valentino, so yes, it is always nice,” Casey tells Oryx. “However, I want to win and beat everybody. Lorenzo, Dani [Pedrosa], Ben Spies – all these guys are very fast, so it’s always nice to be faster than them!”
In fact, the riders look set to get even faster, as 2012 will see the engine limit in MotoGP upped from 800cc to 1,000cc. It’s a huge progression for Casey, who started riding at the age of four on much smaller bikes before moving to the UK at 14 to race in the 125cc national championships. “It was a big move for us all, and I really appreciate their support over my career,” says Casey of his parents, who recognised their son’s talent and moved from Australia because the minimum age to take part in road races there is 16 – in the UK it is 14. “They both still play an active role in my career, although I’m trying to get them to do less and relax and enjoy their life.”
It was a gamble that paid off, with Casey gaining plenty of experience at the 125cc and 250cc levels before eventually moving to MotoGP in 2006, racing first of all for Ducati. He suffered several crashes during that debut season, even though he managed to start in pole position in his second race, proving his doubters wrong by taking the crown the following year. But with a race calendar featuring around 18 destinations Casey is always on the move. “I feel very fortunate to have visited so many places and I’ve met some incredible people, that’s an aspect I love,” he says. “But now the travelling is getting a little tiresome.”
But it is travelling and racing that enabled Casey to meet his wife – Adriana first approached him at a race, and he is happy to recount the tale. “We met in Phillip Island back in 2003, and became friends and it grew from there,” Casey reveals. “She’s my best friend and I can’t wait to start a family with her.”
A family that is to be raised in Casey's new home. “Home is Switzerland, as that is where we come home to, week in, week out,” he says. “We don’t get much time back in Australia at all, sometimes around the Sepang tests [in Malaysia] and obviously around the time of Phillip Island GP, then perhaps at Christmas for a few weeks.”
Christmas will, of course, be a distant memory when Casey finally reaches the start line in Qatar in April, although perhaps he can be relaxed about it – Losail is a track he has always fared well at. “I’m not totally sure why to be honest,” he tells us. “It flows and I find it quite a quick circuit. I seem to be strong there each year.”
It will be no surprise if Casey puts in another strong performance at Qatar this year too, and this looks set to be an approach he will apply to other areas of his life. “Obviously I want to retain the World Championship,” he says of the year ahead, “but also off-track I want to learn about becoming a father and everything that comes with it. I think 2012 will be a year to remember…”
Ones to watch
The riders hoping to take the title:
What is MotoGP?
MotoGP is one of three classes that form the Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix, which has taken place since 1949. These classes are based on engine size, with 125cc and Moto2 races taking place alongside the top-flight MotoGP.
The event takes in destinations around the world, in a similar way to Formula 1, but races in the motorbiking equivalent are much shorter, with no pitstops for refuelling or tyre changes. Like the Formula 1 cars, bikes used in MotoGP are purpose-built racing machines, not intended for normal road use.