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MotoGP, Stoner: "I’ve missed Valentino at the front, the racing could have been incredible with him"

"Marquez needs time, you can forget about injuries if you understand the cause. Recently my competition has been me, I have struggled with my health"

MotoGP: Stoner: "I’ve missed Valentino at the front, the racing could have been incredible with him"

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Three and a half years have gone by since Casey Stoner set foot in the MotoGP paddock, "I believe it was Mugello in 2018 the last time I was here" he said. Yesterday he arrived at Portimao and the first stop was in the Ducati garage to say hello to his former crew chief Christian Gabarrini. “This was my whole world for a lot of years – he said - A lot of people, you know, in this paddock are family and friends, we've missed everyone to be honest.”

The Australian was smiling and relaxed, but admitted he has had a rough time recently with serious health problems.

"Since I finished my testing role with Ducati, I got my shoulder reconstruction, which was fantastic. I’ve struggled massively with my health and I got to the point that I couldn’t get off the couch for five months. Mentally I was struggling, physically massively, so the last three or four years I’ve been trying to manage the situation.”

"I am never more than 60% of my usual self, I have learned to conserve my energy"

 

How are you at the moment?

“I tried to learn how to conserve energy through the day, I started feeling better December/January and I thought I can manage it now. Then I hit March/April and went backwards again. Sometimes I’m extremely exhausted and can’t explain it, then other days feel better. I’m never more than 60% of my usual self. I’ve had to learn to walk everywhere, which I hate, I used to jog everywhere”.

Do you miss not being in good shape?

“I haven’t been able to be competitive in anything. I miss kind of any rivalry with others because for the last 4 years my competition has been me. I was staring to do mountain biking, getting to a good level and I wanted to be competitive and serious but unfortunately things became more difficult”.

A physical problem is limiting you, as is happening to Marquez, even though your situations are very different. How much influence do injuries have on a rider?

“Injuries definitely affect you, it’s part of racing. Something I felt I was good at and Marc is good at is putting that to the back of your mind. We all make mistakes, but it’s learning from those that’s the biggest thing. I never really got scared, I never wanted to crash. For Marc it’s different, he’s come from a big injury, very long with a lot of complications, that’s going to take its toll and time to get over mentally and physically. When I had my ankle surgery and wasn’t allowed to walk for a few months, so with his arm and shoulder it will take so much time to build up. There’s no way to replicate riding a MotoGP bike, as much as you can train. Then of course there is the fear of that happening again. It’s impossible to know what Marc is going through, but it’s certainly tough for him.”

"Marquez was good at covering Honda’s problems with his talent"

 

The Honda also does not appear to be in good shape..

“With Marc everyone knows he’s incredibly talented, he had reaction timings that were second to none, that’s why he could always catch it so quickly after losing the front. One mistake that he and his crew may have made in the early years could be that he was very strong in the brakes, turning that bike, it was only good on the brakes. Even when I was testing with Honda it was heavily emphasized on braking and stability on the brakes, Marc was good at covering the problems. "

Are Ducati on the brink of taking a World Championship again?

"For a long time now they've been close to having the complete package and getting the job done. But when you've got Yamaha that's producing a great package year after year, you've got Marquez that when you know he's fit and healthy, on the Honda. They're very difficult to beat. So, you need that whole package to work together. And that can sometimes be difficult. I think you know, if everything sort of swings their way yes, they can win a Championship. “

"I'd like to try the Yamaha, my biggest competition"

 

If you could ride a MotoGP bike again, which one would you choose?

“Probably the Yamaha, because it was my biggest competition, the most difficult bike to beat. It'd be interesting to know from what I saw when racing how it actually felt so it would be interesting to get an understanding if it was possible to ride it differently to my competitors”.

Don't you miss riding a MotoGP bike at all?

"I did enjoy practice and qualifying, especially on the weekends. Certainly not testing. But practice and qualifying was always fun when everything would come together. And then you just got to go as hard as fast as you possibly could for a lap or two. When you got everything right, I got way more of a thrill out of that than I ever did winning a race. Because in the races, you never went as hard as you could, you always had to manage tyres, fuel... you're always managing the situation."

"It was fantastic to race against Valentino, I learnt a lot from him"

 

Have you already managed to catch up with your old rival Valentino?

“I haven’t caught up with him yet this weekend. If Valentino was still loving his racing, then, you know, there's no reason not to race. I myself wouldn't be able to do it. Because you know, for me, racing was winning. I still accepted the fact that I couldn't win sometimes, but at the same time, the reason I got up in the morning to race was to win. And so I really would struggle to not be running competitively at the front, and I've missed Valentino at the front. I think the last, you know, two, three years, I would have loved to seen him battling it out with the guys. I think the racing could have been incredible with that.”

What do you remember about your rivalry with him?

"You know, me and Valentino have had some amazing battles, we had a fantastic rivalry. Some good points and bad points, some things went my way and other things really didn't. But there was one thing that, you know, was fantastic about racing Valentino, and it's that I got to learn from him, whether it was on track or off the track with his media. He was always very savvy, and very clever, very cunning. So I got to learn a heck of a lot. I’m very happy for him now, with the news of his baby girl, it’s the next chapter in his life, I’m sure he’ll enjoy it.”

"I'm curious to see what Bezzecchi will do in MotoGP"

 

Looking at the young riders, who is impressing you?

“There’s a lot of talent coming through, no one can ignore Acosta, it’s just incredible what he’s done this year, it's impressive to see someone with his maturity at his age, Garcia has been good to watch as well. Fernandez and Remy have done a fantastic job, and Bezzecchi I think he has something maybe a bit extra that I haven't seen this year. I'd like to see what he can do in MotoGP ”.

Young riders have been criticized for their behaviour on the track, what do you think?

“There needs to be more clarity and definitive decisions and tougher sanctions. In my opinion there’s no edge of the track anymore and it just keeps going, it’s just green paint. For me the worst thing to happen to racing is that there’s no run-off. People have no fear anymore because there’s no edge of the track. Everyone needs to learn to have more respect towards each other ”.

And what about the technical regulations?

“I think they are pushing the price of development through the roof, yet we’re basically turning it into Formula 1. I’d like to see certain parts gone, electronically as well, a big reduction. I want to see riders sliding, mistakes, people struggling for grip. It wouldn’t take much, overtaking would actually get better because it wouldn’t only be under brakes”.

You were the last rider to win the MotoGP championship with two different bikes, why is it so difficult for so many riders to switch bikes?

"I’m not inside that person or their mind, in their system of getting to grips with things. For me, I knew until the last half a second how to go quickly on almost any bike with relative ease. I was more happy to adapt, lots of riders say the bike doesn’t suit me or my style. All bikes have positives, it’s all about compromise on set-up and how it wants to be ridden. For me, the biggest thing was I didn’t have pride in the fact that I wanted everything to work for me”.

 

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