Casey Stoner walked away from MotoGP with one last podium after a stunning charge in the Valencia race in Spain. The Repsol Honda rider bowed out of Grand Prix racing with a third place in a race that was declared wet but which took place on a dry line throughout.
The double MotoGP world champion had the worst conditions imaginable for his final race, with the entire field torn between starting on Bridgestone’s wet tires or to opt for slicks with new asphalt clearly drying. Stoner, who took an unprecedented sixth straight win in his farewell appearance at Phillip Island last month, gambled on starting on wet rubber and that decision ultimately cost him the chance to go into retirement with a victory.
Stoner held third for the first three laps but with his rain tire choice not the correct one, he pitted early for his RC213V set for the dry with slicks. Stoner would eventually end up in a podium battle with Gresini Honda rider Alvaro Bautista, who he had once trailed by over 30 seconds after the Spaniard started the race on slicks from the pit lane after changing at the end of the warm-up lap.
Stoner admitted afterwards that the race was one of the toughest of his career as conditions again jolted his confidence and ability to push right at the maximum. The 27-year-old was again worried about crashing and further damaging the ankle he badly injured in a crash during qualifying for the Indianapolis race in mid-August.
He said of his GP finale: “It was probably one of the more difficult races in my career. I wasn’t riding as myself, I wasn’t loose and free like I would normally be and I was nervous. Every time I’ve been on the track since I’ve had this injury I am nervous. I have been warned about the difficulties if I injure my foot again in the same way. It won’t be a couple of months it will be more than year to recover. I’ve been careful not to crash and make mistakes. With a narrow dry line it was a little bit more than nervous. I was tense the whole time and trying to ride as quickly as possible without pushing any limits. It is disappointing and this is why I wanted a dry weekend.”
Casey Stoner (1) gets in one last battle with Valentino Rossi (46) before stepping out of professional motorcycle racing.
Stoner confirmed he had a communication mix-up with his Repsol Honda crew in the early stages of a race, which Dani Pedrosa eventually won by a massive margin of over 37 seconds.
He added: “The start was disappointing and then we had some miscommunication with the pit boards. I was expecting them to tell me when the slicks were faster than the wets and I wasn’t really sure what was going on. Then Jorge (Lorenzo) came past me on slicks and I thought great, I could have been on slicks one or two laps before that. I was a little disappointed with that but anyway we ended up making the right choice although a little bit too late unfortunately. I never thought it was possible to get close to the podium, a lot of people were on slick tires from the beginning and it was impossible to catch them but in the end it was a good job. After everything that has happened, my confidence wasn’t good with these conditions and I really have to be very happy with the result I got. It wasn’t looking good for a podium when I had someone on slicks come past me before I even went into the pits. But I kept plugging away and others made mistakes and I clawed myself back onto the podium.”
Stoner is unlikely to be ever seen in a MotoGP race again now that he is preparing for a new life with wife Adriana and young daughter Alessandra.
And he said: “It is a little strange not being involved in what is happening next year with new bikes and testing but it is also a big weight off your shoulders that you don’t have to think about it. Now I’ll take some time to enjoy life, which is something I’m looking forward to.”