At the press conference at Le Mans, where Casey Stoner made the shock announcement of his retirement, Stoner answered questions from journalists present about his decision to retire at the end of the 2012 season. You can find his original statement in this story, but below is a transcript of what Stoner told journalists when they were given a chance to question the Australian about his retirement.
In a shocking turn of events, Casey Stoner announced at the Thursday press conference for the French GP that he would be retiring at the end of the 2012 MotoGP season. The news is a turn of events, as the Australian denied such rumors at Estoril, saying he would quit motorcycle racing when he no longer enjoyed it, though not any time soon.
Citing his disappointed with the direction MotoGP is currently headed, Stoner main critique with premier-class motorcycle racing has been the introduction of the CRT rules, which use production-based motors in prototype chassis, and have been notably slower than the full-prototype machines.
Stoner first voiced the idea of his retirement over the CRT issue back in Valencia of last year, when the newly crowned World Champion stated that if the future of the MotoGP Championship was in the CRT formula, then it was a future he did not want to be a part of. Today’s announcement seems to make good on that statement.
Chris Vermeulen has been named as the replacement for Colin Edwards in the NGM Mobile Forward Racing team for the Le Mans round of MotoGP. Edwards broke his left collarbone in a crash during free practice at Estoril, and has decided after surgery to skip the French Grand Prix, and return at Barcelona in early June.
Vermeulen has been named as replacement for Edwards because of the Australian’s prior experience on a MotoGP bike. Vermeulen spent four years in MotoGP with the factory Suzuki team, and spent all that time using Bridgestone tires. Vermeulen also has form at Le Mans: he won his only Grand Prix at the circuit, albeit in the pouring rain in 2007. After losing his ride with Suzuki in MotoGP, Vermeulen returned to the World Superbike series to race with Kawasaki.
A series of bad crashes left the Australian struggling with a serious knee injury, and having problems racing. Just as it looked like Vermeulen may have returned to full fitness, he was left without a ride in WSBK. To return to MotoGP, on a bike still in the midst of development, places a rather heavy load on the shoulders of one who has not raced for nearly 10 months.
To say that the French GP got off on the wrong foot might be the understatement of the season. Between the statements between riders about each other, and the Casey Stoner/Randy de Puniet punch incident, the pre-race antics were at a fever pitch in Le Mans. The off-track drama in MotoGP is clearly seeping into the on-track racing action, and accordingly the French GP was filled with several incidents that should give the pundits something to talk about for the coming three weeks before the Catalan GP.
Meanwhile qualifying showed that the Hondas ruled the roost, with the firm’s four factory supported bikes sitting in the top four spots on the starting grid. With Casey Stoner commencing from the pole position, Marco Simoncelli qualified just barely second to the Australian, while Andrea Dovizioso rounded out the front row.
Directly behind Stoner was Dani Pedrosa, who has had some tremendous starts from the second row in the past, and surely couldn’t be counted out of today’s race. Eyes were also on Randy de Puniet, who counted Le Mans as one of his least favorite circuits, despite it being in front of his home crowd.
The tenor of temper tantrums and drama in the MotoGP paddock seemingly escalates with each passing day, as the Warm-Up session at Le Mans saw further scuffles from MotoGP riders. Punching Randy de Puniet in the arm, Casey Stoner has been levied a €5,000 fine by Race Direction for the contact with the French rider. With such a physical act is clearly out of order and unsportsmanlike in any sort of motorcycle race, but the issue about slower riders on the racing line has also surfaced, with many in the MotoGP paddock looking for some intervention from Race Direction on that issue as well.
Le Mans proved to be a Honda-friendly track today, as all four true-blooded factory Honda machines took the four top spots on the grid for tomorrow’s French GP. With the Hondas bunched up at the front, the groupings didn’t stop there as the next four spots were occupied by the Yamaha contingency, with Jorge Lorenzo leading Crutchlow, Edwards, and Spies respectively.
Ninth and tenth on the grid belong to Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden, while Randy de Puniet on the satellite Pramac Ducati will start 11th for his home GP. Both Hayden and Spies cited mistakes on their fast laps as being the cause for their poor qualifying, while Rossi’s squad was unable to capitalize on its softer-compound tire for an ultimate qualifying time.
Starting on pole will be Casey Stoner, as the Australian continues his superb form this season. Though the Repsol Honda rider has been the one to watch so far this season, he only beat out sophmore Marco Simoncelli by a margin of 0.059 seconds.
Simoncelli has seemingly found his stride this season, though his riding has prompted concerns in the MotoGP paddock, as many of the top riders went to the Safety Commission meeting to complain about the Italian’s riding. Rounding out the front row is Andrea Dovizioso, who bested teammate Dani Pedrosa by six-hundreths of a second. Full qualifying results after the jump.
The FIM and TTXGP have issued a joint statement today, declaring that the two rival electric racing series would collaborate on three races this season, plus the possibility of a season-capping championship race in October. As we broke the news a couple months ago, the two series have begun to patch-up their relationship, and are slowly working their way back into a merger.
Today’s announcement sees TTXGP adding its name to perhaps the FIM e-Power Championship’s crown jewel event: the Laguna Seca round, which will count towards the TTXGP’s North American Championship.
Other event collaborations include stops on the FIM e-Power calendar as well, as both Donington Park and Le Mans have been named in the press release. e-Power races to be held at those venues were to be run during the FIM Endurance World Championship, and now will include TTXGP riders as well, who will be receiving points towards their European Championship standings.
The announcement should mean the bolstering of riders at all the events, but we imagine it will affect the FIM’s European rounds the most, as the American race was well-attended last year.
The British GP was the first full GP weekend without The Doctor present to charm the television with his media moxie (did we mention his crash was “worth” $8 million?), and as such we get our first glimpse into what the repercussions are for MotoGP with Rossi out of commission. Checking TV viewership, MotoGP’s stop at Silverstone saw a 20% decline in total viewership when compared to the last two GP’s at Jerez and Le Mans. The result is that advertisers in some markets are asking the local stations that cover MotoGP to readjust there viewership claims and media rates to account for the loss of audience.