Monday, August 10, 2009

Stoner Sidelined? Ducati Disaster?

Rumours abound that Casey Stoner will sit out at least one and possibly 3 MotoGP races as he battles with his mystery "illness". The ex-champion underwent a battery of tests after the Laguna Seca race, with the result that some of the world's best quacks told him he felt ill and looked a tad pale. In other words, they thought he was faking it.

There is now great confusion as to whether Casey's lurgy could be physical or psychological. It's certainly possible to worry yourself sick, but why would that start now?

Has Casey grown a brain?

Most bike racers don't have a brain as such. Anyone with one would have enough imagination to realize that sitting on a two-wheeled machine at 200mph, just inches away from similarly steeded psychos, is a completely ludicrous thing to do. That's why most people aren't motorcycle racers. (Of course, not all people without brains are motorcycle racers, most of them are politicians, car park attendants or reality TV stars.)

Could he have subconsciously become as terrified as anyone in their right mind would be if they were clinging to the Bologna Bullet as it bucked and weaved in a 130mph corner? I'd certainly be throwing up if I had to ride that thing around a racetrack at speed.

If Casey has to sit out a few races, it's a bad thing for MotoGP and a terrible thing for Ducati. The little Aussie might have a tendency towards moaning, but he's one of the best riders of modern times. His ability to jump on the bike, pull out a pole position on his first flying lap then sit down for the rest of the session is unrivalled. Even Valentino Rossi never does that. People who criticized Stoner for winning a title on the bike with the fastest top speed fail to take into account the fact that the bloody thing doesn't go round corners.

There are something like 8 other riders who have raced the 800cc Ducati, and none of them have looked anything like winning a race on the thing, never mind a championship. The Italian team have created a Stonermobile, and without Stoner they are well and truly screwed.

What if Stoner is forced to retire? It wouldn't be the first time something like that has happened. Alex Criville famously won the 500GP title but had to retire due to mystery blackouts that had no known physical cause and cleared up when he stopped racing.

This would be a tragedy for Casey, and it would be a major blow to MotoGP, just when we are into the kind of golden era the sport hasn't seen for nigh on 20 years. The racing might be a bit variable, but Rossi is now under constant attack by Stoner, Pedrosa and Lorenzo.

For Ducati, the loss of Stoner would be a disaster. Who on earth would they replace him with? Mika Kallio has shown reasonably well on the satellite Pramac Ducati, but could he really win races on the factory bike?

The top option would have to be Jorge Lorenzo, but the rumours are that he will turn down a big money offer from Honda to stay on a Yamaha, the best all-round bike in MotoGP just now. It's pretty unlikely that he'd go to Ducati. Rossi won't go, he had that chance before and turned it down for Yamaha, where he'll stay. Pedrosa would probably move to Ducati if he was forced out of Honda, but that's looking very unlikely.

If you don't have one of the top 3 non-Stoner riders, you'd have to look beyond the current MotoGP crowd, but with the new rookie rule, Ducati couldn't hire anyone who hasn't already done a year of MotoGP (or at least half a year). The two likely rising stars outside MotoGP are Alvaro Bautista from 250GP and Ben Spies from World Superbikes. It would be 2011 before either one could join the factory Ducati squad. (The two other rising stars in 250GP are Marco Simoncelli and Hiroshi Aoyama. Simoncelli is already signed to Honda, while Aoyama will very probably ride either a MotoGP Honda or a Moto2 bike next year.)

Even if the Italian team wave enough money around, riders will always baulk at the prospect of riding the desmodromic career killer. Look at what it did to Marco Melandri. Still, Marco is now regaining his confidence and market value after a few great races on the Hayate Kawasaki. Maybe somebody quick would be willing to take a gamble.

Anyway, let's hope it doesn't come to that. Get well soon, Casey.


Dazza said...

From one of your previous posts...

(Rossi has evil powers, you know. He was last seen sticking pins into the gut of a Casey Stoner voodoo doll...)

This is the real reason Stoner has been sidelined. Or maybe he has morning sickness?...

Jimmy said...

Ha ha, morning sickness.

Could be Rossi's doing, though. Who better to fool a bunch of doctors than The Doctor?