At Thursday’s pre-event press conference at the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France in Le Mans, Repsol Honda Team’s Casey Stoner surprised the racing world by announcing his retirement at the end of the 2012 MotoGP™ season. At the same time Valentino Rossi confirmed he will be continuing in the sport for at least another two years.
Stoner had previously dismissed his retirement plans as rumours, however he has now publicly stated that he will not continue racing past the end of the 2012 season. He said: “After a long time thinking, a lot of time talking with my family and my wife, this has been coming for a couple of years now but at the end of this 2012 season I will be not racing in the 2013 Championship. I will be finishing my career at the end of this season in MotoGP, and go forward in different things in my life.
“After so many years of doing this sport which I love, and which myself and my family made so many sacrifices for, after so many years of trying to get to where we have gotten to at this point, this sport has changed a lot and it has changed to the point where I am not enjoying it.”
“There are a lot of things that have disappointed me, and also a lot of things I have loved about this sport, but unfortunately the balance has gone in the wrong direction. And so, basically, we won’t be continuing any more. It would be nice if I could say I would stay one more year, but then where does it stop? So we decided to finish everything as we are now.”
As for the race in Le Mans, Stoner hopes to resolve the chatter issues which have plagued him throughout the season so far: “The last two races we’ve struggled a little bit with chatter, especially the last two, and it’s something we want to really reduce so we have to work hard here.”
Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo, who lies just one point behind the reigning world champion was shocked by the Australian’s announcement: “It’s a surprise for me, for everyone. I didn’t expect it. I heard the rumours and I thought there was a possibility, but I thought he would continue next year. Now he has told us, it’s not good news for MotoGP I think, but his decision is to live quietly with his family and we must respect his decision.”
He will be looking to snatch back the lead in the championship this Sunday at a track he really enjoys: “Le Mans is one of my favourite tracks. Since my first ever-front row in 2003 I have always had good results, so I’m happy to be here.”
Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow saw the lighter side of Stoner’s announcement: “With Casey making that announcement, maybe he can slow down and let me have a place in the top three. They [the aliens] don’t make many mistakes. Maybe they need to change what they have for dinner the night before or something.”
And following a race to forget at Le Mans last year for the team, Crutchlow is looking to carry his good form this season into this round: “I’m looking forward to it, yet it can always throw a few things with the weather. I think we’ve had some not so bad performances this year, although Estoril was disappointing. We really struggled a little bit with the set-up, and maybe a little bit with myself. But hopefully we can get on with it this weekend at Le Mans.”
Valentino Rossi also had some big news as he announced he would continue racing a further two years past 2012, yet not before commenting on Stoner: “Yes, it’s a big surprise. I think it’s bad news for all the MotoGP world because at the end of the season maybe we’re losing one of the great riders and a great rival. Is negative, but it’s his own decision. For me it’s very difficult to understand where my retirement news started from, as I never spoke about my retirement. I want to race in MotoGP for the next two years for sure.”
Le Mans was the place of his only podium with Ducati last year, which he is taking confidence from: “I have had some bad results in Le Mans, but also good memories from the past. We had a not so bad weekend in Portugal and we’ll try and continue on that way and try to improve our performance to try and get closer to the guys in front of us. Last year was the best result with the Ducati, so we are optimistic.”
Rounding out the event was local CRT rider Randy de Puniet: “It’s a very important race for me, even if this year I don’t have the bike to be at the top. But top CRT. I think for the CRTs it will be a difficult track because you have two or three big accelerations, like on the back straight, but you never know what happens with the weather conditions. I hope to be 100% on the bike after my crash at Estoril, because I still have a lot of pain in my ribs. I really hope to be the first CRT this weekend in front of my home crowd.”