Australian Motorcycle Racer with tenacity

He may not have won countless World Championships like some of his past rivals, but there are things Casey Stoner did on a motorcycle that defied belief.

Fittingly he achieved some amazing accolades during his time at the top of the racing world which brought him two World Titles and 38 victories in the premier class.

But this didn’t come easy for the tenacious Australian racer, it took a lot of sacrifice, dedication and above all, personal belief.

Born in Southport Qld on October 16th 1985, it was clear from an early age that Casey Stoner had a flare for racing.

Competing in his first race when he was just four years old, in an under-nines race mind you, he instantly showed signs of natural talent.

Later he would go on to compete over one weekend where he famously raced in five different categories in all seven rounds of each capacity, a weekend that consisted of 35 different races.

Not only did he compete in all of them but he won 32 out of the 35 races – and winning all five Australian titles in the one race meeting.

But it would soon be evident that if he was to chase his dream of racing at the top, he would have to leave his home country and head to Europe.

Young Stoner’s New Journey To England, All for Motorcycle Racing

A lot of this had to do with Casey not being able to legally road race in Australia until he was sixteen, where as in England he was legally allowed to race at the age of 14 – so they packed everything up and left just after his 14th birthday.

It was a massive gamble for not only Casey, but also his parents who made huge sacrifices to fund their son’s dream – which more than paid off!

He attracted immediate sponsorship after just one race in England and went on to win the English 125cc Aprilia Championship in 2000, his first year of road racing.

Stoner also caught the eye of former racer and legend Alberto Puig after racing in two rounds of the Spanish 125cc Championship.

Alberto was so impressed by Casey’s determination and skill he invited him to race for the Telefonica Movistar Team in the 125cc Spanish Championship the following year.

It would prove to be a very busy season for Casey in 2001 after signing up to race in both the English and Spanish Championships during the same year.

Despite missing some English races due to clashes with Spanish rounds, he still managed to come second in both Championships.


Motorcycle World Championship

In that same year he was also granted wildcard entries into the 125cc GP World Championship, in both England and Australia, which would be his first visit to Phillip Island, a race circuit which he would eventually make his own.

He placed 18th and 12th respectively and as a result was offered a ride the following year for the Safilo Oxydo LCR team in the 250cc GP World Championship.

The doors were starting to open for the talented baby faced Australian who looked more like a young shy school student than a fierce and competitive motorcycle racer.

Climbing straight onto a 250cc machine in his rookie year, and at only 16 years of age, Casey demonstrated his ability and speed with instant results.

His best for the year was 5th at Brno as well as several 6th place finishes.

In 2003 he continued to ride for Lucio and Safilo Oxydo LCR, but this time in the 125cc GP World Championship where he took four podium finishes and his first ever race win, in Valencia.

This placed him 8th overall in the final standings, but that first win in the final GP of the year at Valencia was an integral turning point for the Australian and his career.

Winning Motorbike Racing Career!

In 2004, at 18 years of age, Casey moved to KTM for just the one season, where he helped develop the team’s 125cc bike into a winning machine.

That year he stood on the podium six times and also took KTM’s first ever win in a GP class, something he will always be fondly remembered for by the Austrian marque.

The following year saw Stoner once again return under the umbrella of Lucio Cecchinello’s team, this time riding an official 250cc Aprilia.

He spent 2005 battling it out with Dani Pedrosa for the Championship, visiting the podium ten times and taking wins in Portugal, Shanghai, Qatar, Sepang, and Istanbul.

But it was only enough to finish second in the Championship behind Dani.


Australian Bike Racing Champion!

Everything was about to change though when at twenty years of age, Casey Stoner accomplished his long held ambition of racing in MotoGP, the fastest and most prestigious of the classes.

He didn’t disappoint those who supported him either with a pole position in only his second ever MotoGP race in Qatar, while in the Turkey GP he found himself battling for the win until the very final corner, finishing runner-up just a fraction behind winner Marco Melandri.

Casey finished eighth overall in his rookie MotoGP season, and demonstrated that he was able to match it with the fastest motorcycle racers in the world.

He had already made a name for himself in his rookie year, but nobody expected what was to come in the following season.

It would turn out to be a golden year for Casey after joining the Factory Ducati Marlboro Team alongside Loris Capirossi, with whom he had struck up a strong friendship.

To make life even better, he married Adriana on January 6th and on his debut on the new bike at the first race of the year in Qatar he won in a historic dominant performance.

He backed this up with another nine victories and on September 23rd in Japan, Stoner secured his first MotoGP World Championship – once again we had another Aussie champion!

No Limit For His Speed

Interestingly though, Stoner was one of the only riders that could handle the Ducati – and man did he ride it fast!

In comparison the only man that came even slightly close to being able to handle the blistering horsepower of the Ducati like Stoner was his first teammate Loris.

I remember in 2008 when I interviewed Marco Melandri who had replaced Capirossi that season.

Marco did nothing but complain about the way the Ducati handled, even to the point where his crew chief, who was present during the interview, started snapping at him in Italian before the interview was abruptly cut short.

It was clear he just couldn’t come to terms with the bike, even someone of Marco’s calibre, further illustrating just how skilful Stoner really was on two wheels.

And we can’t forget the famous move from Valentino Rossi when he joined Ducati in 2011, it was supposed to be an amazing move.

The legendry Italian on the legendry marque brand, but he couldn’t even find his way in to the top ten.

He battled it out for only two seasons before he returned to Yamaha with his tail between his legs.

Then we saw three-time World Champion Jorge Lorenzo try his luck with the crew from Bologna, again with very disappointing results which would see him move to Honda also after only two years with the factory Ducati team.


Obstacles Slowed Him Down

Casey’s fight to defend his title in 2008 was a hard fought battle.

It was a season of highs and lows where Casey took seven pole positions in a row, converting three of them into race wins in Donington, Assen and Sachsenring, leaving him just 20 points from the Championship lead.

However, successive crashes whilst fighting for the victory at Laguna Seca, Brno and Misano effectively put the Championship out of reach.

He eventually finished runner-up to Valentino Rossi with 280 points, which at the time was the highest points tally ever recorded without winning the title.

Clearly he was frustrated with the result, but the following year would turn out to be even more challenging.

The 2009 season began well for Casey however, after suffering from severe fatigue in a few consecutive races, he made the gruelling decision to miss rounds 11, 12 and 13 so he could take a break and concentrate on his mystery illness.

Adapting To Any Bike Was A Piece Of Cake

After the diagnosis was confirmed as lactose intolerance, Casey came back strong and finished the season on a high, finishing second in Portugal, and winning his home Grand Prix at Phillip Island as well as victory in Sepang.

He dominated the final weekend of the year in Valencia too where he secured pole but unfortunately crashed on cold tyres during the warm-up lap, forcing him to miss the race.

And even though he missed three races that year, Casey still managed to finish fourth in the Championship.

Casey had a slow start to 2010 and it wasn’t until late in the season in Round 13, at the inaugural Aragon GP, that he secured his first win of the season.

This victory pre-empted a run of three victories in four races winning in Japan and his home GP in Australia – once again he frustratingly finished fourth in the Championship.

The following year was the year that many would remember most, when Casey moved to the factory Repsol Honda Team.

He adapted immediately to the Japanese bike and won three out of the first five rounds of the season, with victories in Qatar, Le Mans and Catalunya.

He added victories at Silverstone in damp conditions, and Laguna Seca, to hold a 20-point lead over Jorge Lorenzo with eight races remaining in the season.


Phillip Island Was His Favourite Hunting Ground

On his 26th birthday, Casey thrilled home fans when he won his ninth race of the season at Phillip Island.

It was his fifth consecutive win on home soil dating back to 2007 making him the only rider to have won at the Island during the 800cc era of Moto GP.

And with his only challenger Jorge Lorenzo unfortunately ruled out of the race due to a hand injury suffered in warmup, Casey finished the weekend with an unassailable 65-point lead and secured his second career World Title.

He also became the first rider to ever win the title twice in his first year on a new machine (in 2007 it was with Ducati and in 2011 he did it again with Honda).

My biggest memories from that weekend in 2011 were firstly all the track marshals on the Saturday frantically searching for Jorge Lorenzo’s finger in the gravel run-off on the final turn.

How crazy the fans went when Stoner rolled out on race day with the white Ducati painted in Australian livery.

It really was a memorable weekend on the Island.

Tough Decisions With Racing Career

Stoner finished on the podium in every race that year except one (Jerez), where he was taken out in a racing incident involving Valentino Rossi.

The motorcycle racing world was pumped when the 2012 season kicked off, especially with Casey looking hungrier than ever to retain his title.

He began in blistering form with wins at Jerez, and Estoril, both tracks he had not won a MotoGP race at before; his victory in Estoril allowed him to take the Championship lead.

But his fourth place at the Catalunya GP was his first finish off the podium in fourteen months, and he just didn’t seem to have his heart in it anymore.

Life also changed dramatically when he became a father in February to lovely daughter Alessandra, and rumours started emerging about the possibility of the little master from downunder hanging up his racing helmet.

This was all soon confirmed when Casey shocked the motorcycling world by announcing his retirement from the sport at the end of the current season; citing personal reasons and dislike for the way the Championship was headed as his reasons for his decision.


His Passion For Motorbike Racing Kept Him Going

He of course was still well and truly in the hunt for the title though, and after a few difficult races he found himself flying to the US for the two American rounds.

An emphatic victory at Laguna Seca sparked a small flame in his title defence, but it was soon extinguished after he suffered a heavy crash tearing ligaments in his ankle during qualifying at Indianapolis.

Torn ligaments and all, Casey showed that grit and determination that made him into the world champion he is today by racing on Sunday with a custom made AlpineStars boot to cover his heavily strapped ankle.

On his return to Europe he was advised to have immediate surgery and flew home to Australia for the operation.

This of course would force him out of the next three races and ultimately end whatever Championship hopes he had left.

He returned to the fray for the Japanese GP where he finished fifth, which he then backed up with a third place finish in Malaysia.

Unforgettable Performance By Stoner

Knowing the Championship was out of reach, and realising his appearance at the 2012 Australian MotoGP would be his last performance on home soil.

Stoner put on an incredible show in front of a sell-out crowd at Phillip Island that year, a race I’ll never forget.

He dominated every practice session by over a second and then took pole position half a second faster than second place Lorenzo.

He also led warmup and then won the race by nearly ten seconds over Lorenzo, one of the most dominant displays in his six consecutive victories.

I remember being in the Media Centre just after he won and seeing a sea of people stretching all the way along the main straight – they were wild scenes that will live in Australian hearts for decades to come.

He backed this up with third place in Valencia which would leave him third in the overall standings behind Lorenzo and Pedrosa, signalling an end to an amazing MotoGP career.


Life with Ducati After Bike Racing Retirement

Of course when a legend like Casey Stoner hangs up his helmet, albeit prematurely like many still believe, his knowledge and race-craft, which was up there with some of the best, is still much sought after and extremely valuable.

This is why it was no surprise to see that since retiring from MotoGP in 2012.

Casey served as a test rider for HRC until November 2015 before Ducati quickly secured Casey’s expertise in a collaboration which lasted three years from 2016 to 2018.

And in those three years, thanks to Casey’s important contribution, Ducati constantly improved the performance of the Desmosedici GP.

It is now considered to be one of the most competitive bikes in the MotoGP.

The partnership between Ducati and Stoner, which ultimately ended in good circumstances, also contributed to the final development of the Panigale V4.

Also offering important suggestions for the development of other bikes currently in the Ducati range.

“I want to thank Ducati for the great memories and especially the support and enthusiasm of the Ducati fans for our shared passion for racing and motorcycling, I’ll always remember this,” stated Casey Stoner.

“Over the past three years I have really enjoyed doing my job with the test team, the engineers and technicians, as we worked towards improving the Desmosedici GP package and I sincerely want to wish the team all the very best for their future endeavours.”

Claudio Domenicali, CEO of Ducati Motor Holding commented, “Casey is and will always remain in the hearts of Ducatisti and it is also on their behalf that we wish to thank him for the important collaboration he has offered us over the last three years.

Ducati and its many fans wish to offer their sincere thanks and their best wishes to Casey and his family for a serene and happy future.”

Casey Stoner, MotoGP Legend!

When it comes to Casey Stoner, I suppose I can say he is the rider that resonates with me most when I reflect on some of the best riders I’ve seen race, especially Australians.

I remember watching Mick Doohan race at Eastern Creek and Chris Vermeulen at Phillip Island, but never had I witnessed anything like Stoner and what he could do on a motorcycle.

I was privileged enough to witness every one of his six consecutive victories which undoubtedly stamped his name in history as the Island King – never will we see such domination from an Australian at his home GP.

It was also quite fitting when the circuit owners named turn three after him (the corner where he used to thrill fans with a powerslide at over 200km/hr) along with creating a bronze bust in his honour at the track.

After his retirement, Casey Stoner was also named a MotoGP Legend, joining a list of greats including fellow countrymen Mick Doohan and Wayne Gardner, along with other legends such as Giacomo Agostini, Mike Hailwood and Freddie Spencer.


Always Be Remembered For His Craze for Bike Racing

As already alluded to, many feel the big question is did Casey Stoner retire well before his time, which is something only he can answer.

There’s no doubt if he had continued racing he would have gone on to win more races and maybe even another World Championship, but that’s just speculation now.

Either way, in only his short six year stint in MotoGP, he won two World Titles, the Australian MotoGP six times and became the first ever rider to win the championship with two different manufacturers in the first year.

Not sure about you, but in my book Casey Stoner definitely goes down as one of the best motorcycle racers of all time and is a fitting conclusion to our recent Legends of Racing series.

Casey Stoner – GP World Championship Career

2 World Moto GP Championships (2007 – Ducati / 2011 – Honda)
45 victories (2 x 125cc, 5 x 250cc, 38 x MotoGP)
17 second positions (5 x 125cc, 1 x 250cc, 11 x MotoGP)
27 third positions (3 x 125cc, 4 x 250cc, 20 x MotoGP)
89 podiums (10 x 125cc, 10 x 250cc, 69 x MotoGP)
43 poles (2 x 125cc, 2 x 250cc, 39 x MotoGP)
33 fastest race laps (3 x 125cc, 1 x 250cc, 29 x MotoGP)

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