Fairy-tale farewell for Stoner
FAIRY-TALE TRIUMPH: Honda's Casey Stoner holds his 2012 Austalian MotoGP trophy aloft after winning his last hrace in front of his home Phillip Island supporters. Image: AFP
Author: IAN RANSOM
PHILLIP ISLAND, Australia - Retiring MotoGP champion Casey Stoner completed a fairy-tale farewell at Phillip Island by extending his record to six consecutive victories Down Under on Sunday but deflated home fans holding out hope of a comeback further down the road.
"I've no thoughts of ever even thinking of coming back," the 27-year-old Honda rider told reporters after roaring to a nine-second victory over title-winner Jorge Lorenzo. "I'm very established where I'm going (into retirement). I'm not changing my mind every couple of minutes."
Stoner shocked the MotoGP tour in May when he announced his decision to cut short his career, citing disillusionment with the sport and the grind of touring.
Married and recently becoming a father, the country boy from rural New South Wales will leave the sport at the end of the 2012 season with two MotoGP titles and the chance to add to 38 premier class victories in the last round at Valencia.
Like tennis icon Bjorn Borg and former women's golf World No.1 Lorena Ochoa, Stoner's retirement will leave pundits asking “what if?”.
Stoner, as an intense and occasionally abrasive competitor whose verbal spats with seven-times rival Valentino Rossi have been a feature of his career, has rarely attracted the locker-room affections of his fellow riders, or endeared himself to much of the motorcycling media but few have drawn as much admiration on the track as the hard-bitten Australian who blitzed to the 2007 title on a Ducati before destroying the field on a Honda in 2011.
Lorenzo told reporters after securing his second MotoGP championship, two years after his maiden 2010 title: "I think I'm talented but probably I've never seen a rider with more pure talent than him.
"Maybe not these two years, but previously with Ducati, he was the only rider who could push you out two seconds in the first two laps. He was unbelievable how he made it.
"Maybe, he'll come back. I think every rider will... gain many more opportunities to win races and championships. With him on the track it would be much tougher."
Although Stoner's career has been blighted by injury and illness, the Australian has throughout remained master of his home track here at Phillip Island, a coastal circuit that rewards aggression and raw speed.
On Sunday, pole-starter Stoner surrendered the lead to Lorenzo with a poor start but needed scarcely more than a minute to wrest it back before burning away to victory and a chance to lap up the home crowd’s adulation one last time.
"I'm not really a very emotional person but I think it says enough seeing the people out on the pits straight and the reception we got for winning this race," Stoner said after being hailed by a huge crowd. "It was quite something to take in.
"It was very important for me to win a race before I retire and to do it at my home GP here was just a fairy-tale."