This Noyes interview with Casey Stoner reveals a bit of Stoner's perspective on the current MotoGP season:
SPEEDtv.com Interview: Casey Stoner
Written by: Dennis Noyes Miraflores de la Sierra, Madrid, Spain – 7/5/2007
Ducati Marlboro's Casey Stoner (Photo: Ducati Corse)
Talking to 21-year-old Casey Stoner reminds me in a lot of ways of talking to the young Mick Doohan back in 1989 and 1990 when he was breaking in... and breaking bones. Mick came up to the premier class in the days when the 500s were at their nastiest. The high-sider was common and Honda
HRC engineers were so worried about the rate of crashes that they even proposed to the FIM eliminating the 500s and introducing a 375cc class with a limit of three cylinders.
Doohan had to make his way to the top riding against the likes of Wayne Rainey and Kevin Schwantz, but seemed to be on the way to his first title in his third year, 1992, before suffering a serious injury at Assen.
Stoner is now leading the points table in only his second season in the premier class and certainly does not have it any easier than Doohan did; he has to battle for the title against Valentino Rossi but does not seem to be under pressure and, so far, has avoided errors and crashes.
Stoner comes from that same Australian dirt track
background that produced Wayne Gardner and the generation that followed. On Friday afternoon in Assen I had a long talk with the MotoGP points leader.
They say in the MotoGP paddock that Casey Stoner was Ducati’s third choice at the end of 2006, behind Rossi, Hayden, and Melandri, and that he is currently one of most underpaid stars on the MotoGP grid. If these things are true, Ducati’s Livio Suppo, who heard complaints from Loris Capirossi when he signed the up-and-coming Australian, has reason to be pleased with the Ducati-Stoner contract.
Stoner may turn out to be the biggest bargain Ducati and Marlboro have ever had.
SpeedTV: Talk about your dirt track background in Australia:
“Broc Parkes was one of my idols when I was really little. He was a great dirt track rider and he and Westy (Anthony West) had some great battles and I have ridden against Westy a couple of times as we were coming up. I was watching an old dirt track video from ‘96 the other night with Broc and Westy and Chris Vermuelen…it’s quite funny now to see that when all of us are in the world championships. We all knew each other or about each other. Chad Reed didn’t do much dirt track and went straight into motocross
. I didn’t see much of Josh Brookes but he did some dirt track as did Marc Atchenson (FIM Superstock 1000 Cup contender). It was a tough environment to come out of; we had different kinds of tracks, some 1000-meter ovals on trotting tracks that on an 80cc was just flat out and chuck it back one gear in the corners. On an 80cc I was able to go faster than the guys on the 500cc motocross bikes.
SpeedTV: All your background in dirt builds throttle control, and in 125 and 250 too…now you are riding in MotoGP with the 800cc where traction control is all-important. Many riders, among them Rossi, are saying that TC is spoiling racing and taking control away from the rider.
I hear Randy Mamola on the TV commentary and I hear all these things about how traction control
does everything, everybody complaining about it. I don’t know because the systems I have tried are nothing but a control system to stop you from crashing and if you have completely destroyed a tire then it will help you to find that little bit of extra traction. These bikes these days really are tearing up tires more than the old 500s ever did, so you really sort of need that system there to help us that little bit. But it is still all about throttle control. Don’t get me wrong. TC is there when you make a mistake, if you have a bit of a wobble and get on the gas too hard, it can help you a little bit, but it’s still all about throttle control. Traction control is pretty much a helping hand. In rain situations now you can feel the traction control helping. There would have been a lot of riders high-siding in Donington. Sometimes maybe traction control can be a little bit too much in the wet… I can definitely feel it working and keeping the rear wheel from stepping too far out of line -- helping you out of sticky situations, but in the dry I really don’t feel it as much.
SpeedTV: Valentino has said that he doesn’t think these 800cc bikes as they are now could be ridden without TC, but he regrets that electronics has become so important.
I agree with that. I rode the new Ducati at the end of last year with a new TC system that wasn’t sorted yet and Loris and I had a pretty hard time getting thrown all over the bike, it was pretty much impossible to ride, but once you get them tamed down a bit -- but it is not so much traction control -- it is more engine management, mapping, all that does a lot more than the actual traction control system
does. Since Mick started riding the Big Bang they have been looking for a way to keep the power controllable. Everybody keeps saying how much easier these bikes are to ride and yadada, but you can only ride a bike to its limit and we are riding these bikes as close to the limit as we can.
SpeedTV: But many, fans and riders, miss the sliding, the smoking rear tire with the bike crossed up…are we ever going to see that again?
I think it is not just the bikes
and the electronics; it is the tires as well. But really you have got to stay in that traction area and if you start to slide you are losing time. With the old bikes you used to be able to slide them and smoke them up and you wouldn’t lose time because that first part of traction really wasn’t there so you had to slide a bit; you either stepped it out one foot or two foot, but nowadays you have got to stay in that traction area because it works really well and you get a lot more drive. But if you spin it, that’s it, they’re gone and you spinning. In that way it’s like 125… if you lose anything in the corner you don’t make it back on the corner exit. You have to be close to perfect all the time. Of course we can still slide these bikes around a little bit to help us turn, but you have to stay in the traction area and avoid breaking it loose.
SpeedTV: But with traction control you can bring it home on a badly worn tire and keep a good pace.
Yeah, now, the way it is, you can still ride hard on a badly worn tire because you know it is not going to suddenly break away and highside you. It steps out more slowly. Now, I think, riders are focused on their fitness and that is part of why lap records are broken at the end of races even though the tires are worn…and we are always learning, all the way through the race how to go faster and faster and faster and on the last few laps you put all the learning during the race into practice.