Like most top MotoGP riders, Casey Stoner holds a press briefing every afternoon during a race weekend. At Valencia, on the eve of his retirement, the 27-year-old outgoing premier-class world champion was asked several questions, to which he provided forthright replies.
Cycle World Technical Editor Kevin Cameron was first to raise his hand. “When you were at Ducati,” he began, “you said the rider had no role in development, that the engineers gave you a motorcycle and you were obliged to ride it. Was that the same situation at Honda?”
“No,” replied Stoner. “Toward the end at Ducati, I had the engineers working with me a lot better. But, unfortunately, the people above weren’t giving us the funds to push things forward more.
“At Honda, I haven’t found that at all. Since the first moment that I went there, everything I asked for, every bit of input, everything we thought would move us forward, they’ve tried to produce it, to get it to us and help us through these seasons. They’re very much about working with the rider.
“If you don’t work with the riders, then you can’t really move anything further forward because the rider has all of the input. There’s only so much data that you can pull off a bike that actually makes sense.”
Unlike the wet morning practice, conditions were such Friday afternoon that only 11 riders lapped the newly repaved track within 107 percent of the time set by Aspar Aprilia’s Randy de Puniet. Stoner was one of five, including newly crowned world champion Jorge Lorenzo, who skipped the session.
“Disappointing day?” asked veteran writer Michael Scott.
“Yeah,” replied Stoner. “Big time. The surface sucks, especially in the wet. It doesn’t drain away at all. It’s very slippery. There’s no traction whatsoever. And, in general, I don’t feel the bumps are gone. There are a few major bumps that are better than last year, but, in general, I actually feel a lot more consistency of smaller bumps around the whole circuit now.
“There are also a couple of big joints in critical braking points that are not in the best position. And [the track] holds a lot of water in that place also.”
Asked if his retirement has “sunk in,” Stoner once again stressed he was not second-guessing his decision to leave the sport. “I make realistic decisions,” he said. “I’m not going to get to this point and think that I’ve made the wrong decision or a whole run of emotions are going to overtake me. I think a lot with my head and not always with my heart.
“It feels a little different that I’m not speaking about next year,” he admitted. “But, in general, it’s still the same once I’m in the box.”
On Monday, when other riders are preparing for Tuesday’s test, Stoner will be “packing up.”
Stoner described his injured ankle as “average. In the wet conditions, it wasn’t good today. I couldn’t really get myself off the inside [of the bike] as much as I’d like. So, it was a little bit difficult. We didn’t push at all this morning; I didn’t want to take any risks.”
“What do you think makes Lorenzo world champion?” asked another writer.
“Extreme consistency,” replied Stoner. “He was either first or second when he wasn’t taken out in a crash. It hasn’t necessarily been raw speed—Dani [Pedrosa] and I have been faster than him quite often this year.
“He rode a fantastic season and would have been very difficult to beat no matter what.”