After the announcement that Casey Stoner would be flying back to Australia for surgery on his injured ankle, effectively ruling him out of contention for the 2012 MotoGP title, the Repsol Honda team organized a press conference to give Stoner the opportunity to explain his decision. The decision had not been an easy one, as Stoner had initially been intending to race at Brno, but a phone call from his doctors in Australia convinced him it would be too dangerous, as a crash could see him suffer permanent damage. It would be better to return to Australia, have surgery, and try to be fit enough to race again later in the year, with the goal being to return before Phillip Island to be as competitive as possible there.
Talking to journalists for the first time since the announcements that he would be leaving Ducati and joining Yamaha, Valentino Rossi provided some interesting insights today at the Indianapolis GP pre-even press conference, which showed his reasoning for the switch in teams, as well as how Rossi views his future in MotoGP. Perhaps the most interesting remark from The Doctor was his own questioning of his alien status, saying that he no longer knew whether he was a top rider in the sport.
Beyond the opportunity to question Rossi over his decision to move back to Yamaha, there was ample build-up, by both fans and journalists. The build-up of course pertained to seeing Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi in the same room with each other, as highly critical statements by Stoner were made this week in the media over Rossi’s tenure at Ducati. Putting the kibosh on the expected fight between the two riders, Stoner made it clear that the article in question was a composite of statements he has said in the press over the pass one and a half years, and that he made none of those statements in the past week.
Another interesting point included Rossi conceding that rival Jorge Lorenzo would be the #1 rider in the factory Yamaha team, though Lorenzo admitted later in the press conference that the distinction carried little weight when it came to parts and development, as Yamaha supplied riders equally within the team. Unwilling to talk money figures with his contract, Rossi would also not speculate on whether he and Lorenzo would share the same livery, i.e. sponsors, for next season.
With the atmosphere in the room palpable, Rossi fans will be interested in hearing The Doctor talk about his career with new uncertainty, and dwell on the possibility that the best of his motorcycle racing years might be behind him. A selected portion of the press conference transcript is after the jump.
As a MotoGP rider, dealing with the press can be a lot like boxing against a stronger opponent: put in a quick attack, and then grab on and defend for dear life. At Laguna Seca, Ben Spies showed he had mastered the art perfectly. After dropping the bombshell that he would be leaving Yamaha on Tuesday — on Thursday Spies was in full defensive mode, deflecting questions and saying that he would not be discussing the situation and what had motivated his decision “until I’m ready to talk about the future.” To carry that off, and persist in your position in a room full of journalists hell-bent on wheedling the truth out of you, is quite an achievement.
Fortunately for Spies, his announcement had given the assembled media hordes – well, not quite a horde, as dwindling print sales, economic stagnation in the key markets of Spain and Italy, and a few broader issues with journalists traveling on tourist visas meant that press corps numbers at Laguna are down – had plenty of other issues to sink their teeth into. Spies leaving Yamaha opens up another seat, and with the Texan looking almost certain to switch back to the World Superbike series with the BMW Italia squad next season, an extra factory prototype, something of increasing scarcity in these days of dwindling factory involvement.
Naturally, with Spies out of the equation, the media and fans have joined in an epic game of fill-in-the-blanks to try and slot all the surplus of talented riders into the limited space for available rides.
If MotoGP can be said to have a backyard, then the Montmelo circuit just outside Barcelona is surely it. Series organizer Dorna has its offices just south of the city, and the Catalunya region – and especially the dormitory towns surrounding Barcelona – has provide a rich seam of riding talent, a seam almost as rich as its Italian counterpart surrounding the Misano circuit, comprising Cattolica, Riccione and the immediate area. So this is a home race for everyone, almost literally for some people. Where normally, nearly everyone in the paddock stays in hotels or rented accommodation, Dorna staff and some team members are now commuting to work from their homes in Barcelona.
And there are plenty of riders in more or less the same boat. Jorge Lorenzo lives in the city, Dani Pedrosa is from Sabadell, the industrial town just south of the track, while the Espargaro brothers Aleix and Pol are from Granollers, the town just a stone’s throw from the Montmelo track. The pressure is enormous, as both Dani Pedrosa and Lorge Lorenzo acknowledged in the press conference today. Media appearances go through the roof, friends, family, sponsors, business contacts, everyone wants a piece of the Spanish riders, and they barely get a moments rest. Actually riding a MotoGP bike at the limit feels like a blessed relief.
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.
The MotoGP World Championship resumed in full-force on Thursday in Brno, as the summer break concluded and the Czech GP began. The first gathering of the MotoGP riders since the official independent report on the safety concerning the Motegi circuit, all eyes were on Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo to see if their stance had changed regarding the postponed Japanese GP. With both riders softening their stance on boycotting the Japanese MotoGP round, it was Stoner who dropped the bigger bombshell, announcing that he and wife Adriana were expecting their first child. Saying that he would further consider racing at Motegi, Stoner admitted that the news he was about to become a family man influenced his decision to race at Motegi.
The Portuguese GP proved to be a thinking man’s race, but the pre-race press conference showed that some riders can switch their brains off from time to time. With Marco Simoncelli making strong impressions during the Free Practice sessions at Estoril, and Jorge Lorenzo on sitting on the pole, tempers flew a bit as the Spaniard and Italian minced words over riding styles and reputations.
Starting with a prompt as to whether Simoncelli had read some disparaging remarks made by Jorge Lorenzo in the media, the two riders had a heated exchange about past incidents of questionable riding conduct, while a bemused Pedrosa had to remain seated next to them during the handbag tussle. From there, the following transcript ensued. Read it after the jump.