Home > Motorsport > Casey Stoner Seals Moto GP World Championship on dramatic weekend at Phillip Island

Casey Stoner Seals Moto GP World Championship on dramatic weekend at Phillip Island

Casey Stoner today (16th October) won his second Moto GP world title, in his home Grand Prix, on his birthday. A fairytale ending some might say, but unfortunately it did not come in the manner that the new world champion had hoped for as a crazy race day brought a dramatic weekend of racing action to a close.

Heading in to this weekend’s round at the legendary Phillip Island circuit, many felt that the Repsol Honda rider and proud ‘Aussie’ had a slim chance of sealing a championship that was within touching distance. In order to end his four year wait for a second title, Stoner needed to score at least 10 points more than his nearest rival and defending world champion Jorge Lorenzo. However, the Spaniard’s consistency in finishing on the podium this season meant that most experts and fans expected the championship to go, at least, to Sepang next Sunday (23rd October). In fact Stoner himself rated his chances of finishing the job on home soil as ‘very slim.’

That Stoner won the race is no great surprise. He loves the Phillip Island circuit and has now won five years in a row and at no point this weekend did that streak look like coming to an end. Despite crashing in the first practice session on Friday, he recorded the fastest time of the day with a 1:30.535. He was imperious during Saturday’s qualifying, securing pole as the only rider to go sub 1:30 and looked odds on to win yet another race. He did of course complete a superb weekend, winning at a canter, but the real shock is what happened to those behind him on the grid.

Casey Stoner in full flow on his way to becoming World Champion (This image is the property of AP)

Yamaha’s Ben Spies crashed out at 150 mph during the second qualifying session on Saturday and sustained severe bruising and a suspected cracked rib. He was still expected to line up on the grid but complained of a fuzzy head on the morning of the race and stated that he was unable to concentrate during the warm-up laps. Yamaha decided that it was too dangerous to send the American out and one of their riders was out of the race.

Then came the big news of the day and it was news that changed the whole complexion of the world championship race. On the last corner of the last lap of the warm-up, Jorge Lorenzo’s bike took on the role of bucking bronco and despite the best efforts of the Spaniard to keep it under control, the Yamaha YZR-M1 catapulted him from the saddle. Lorenzo walked away seemingly unscathed but appeared to be examining his left hand with great concern. His hand became trapped under the bike when it threw him off and we have since learned that he lost the tip of his ring finger in the incident. Thankfully he underwent successful surgery in Melbourne and according to a Yamaha team statement released today ‘no functionality will be lost in either the finger or the hand.’ He will, however, miss the race in Malaysia next weekend.

Lorenzo’s misfortune meant that Stoner only had to finish in the top six to become world champion, but as has been the case all season, the Australian showed the rest how it is done, but not before he showed that he is also a top class act out of the saddle. Upon hearing that Lorenzo had been taken to hospital, Stoner’s immediate reaction was to do the human thing and enquire as to the welfare of his great rival. He then expressed his disappointment at not being able to try to win the championship from the incumbent directly. How many sportsmen would have acted in such a dignified manner?

Back to the track and the unpredictable elements put paid to the hopes of the great Valentino Rossi, who passed Alvaro Bautista at speed but was unable to stop the bike quickly enough on surface water and crashed out. They also saw the end of Bautista himself who also slid out. Cal Crutchlow and Hiroshi Aoyama were also victims, and Karel Abraham’s nightmare weekend ended in fitting fashion, in the gravel trap. Andrea Dovizioso and Marco Simoncelli thrilled the crowd with a close run battle for second which involved several overtakes and numerous close shaves.

Whilst all of this carnage was taking place, one man was forgotten by the TV cameras, the man who can now deservedly call himself the best in the world. Stoner serenely rode, unopposed and unstoppably, to the world title which has, in truth, had his name on it for some time. In commentary, Stoner’s excitable countryman Charlie Cox referred to him as a ‘magician on a motorbike,’ and based on what we have seen this year, it is impossible to disagree. The statistics speak for themselves. Nine wins, six podiums and 11 poles from 16 races are championship form by any measure and in many ways, what happened in Australia was something of a microcosm for the season as a whole.

The Australian celebrates the perfect birthday present (This image is the property of Andrew Brownhill)

Jorge Lorenzo has been very good this season, but has made several costly mistakes. He crashed out at Silverstone in Round Six and never looked comfortable in the final sector this weekend, the sector in which he crashed out.  The man widely considered the best rider in the history of the sport, Valentino Rossi, has struggled on a less than stellar Ducati, crashing out in the last two races. Stoner’s teammate Dani Pedrosa has been solid but has paid the price for missing three races as a result of his crash in France earlier in the season and Marco Simoncelli has simply suffered too many DNFs (four).

Stoner has not made such errors. In fact, only once, at Jerez where he did not finish, has Stoner failed to get on the podium. He has simply been head and shoulders above the rest of the field. Many have unfairly put this down to the superiority of the Honda Honda RC212V, which has usurped the Yamaha as the best bike on the grid. Whilst there is some truth in the claims that the Honda has been better than every other bike, the pace Stoner has been able to eke out of the machine has been phenomenal. He has left everybody in his wake, and let us not forget that this is his first season on the Honda having switched from Ducati at the end of the last season. Stoner has shown signs of frustration at the lack of appreciation he has received in the past and one has to have some sympathy for him. He is a bona fide two-time world champion in an elite sport and may even go on to emulate, or perhaps even better, the record of fellow ‘Aussie’ and former Repsol Honda star Mick Doohan, who won five world titles between 1994 and 1998.

Today is not, however, a day for Stoner to dwell on the lack of credit he gets or what the future may hold. It is instead a day for revelling in his fantastic achievement and enjoying his birthday with his nearest and dearest. The world title is the best present he could have asked for and may even make up for the fact that his father did not buy him anything for his 26th birthday!

Congratulations Casey Stoner, a deserved 2011 Moto GP World Champion.

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