Papa Wheelie reacts to the MotoGP Le Mans Grand Prix and the shocking news that came out of the Honda camp.
This past weekend in Le Mans proved that rain is the great equalizer in all of motorsports. After practicing much of the time in dry conditions, qualifying and races took place in mixed and wet conditions. Frenchman Louis Rossi also held on to an incident-filled Moto3 race to claim his first win of the season. Thomas Luthi persevered a crash-filled Moto2 race to win his first race of the season and get him back in the hunt against Marc Marquez. Jorge Lorenzo kept his cool and his head down to charge to a his second win of the season in MotoGP.
But who are we kidding here? None of that was the talk of the weekend. The big news to come out of this weekend from the MotoGP paddock was that two-time and defending world champion Casey Stoner is going to retire from MotoGP at the end of the season. Quote the champ, “After so many years of doing this sport which I love, and which myself and my family made so many sacrifices for, after so many years of trying to get to where we have gotten to at this point, this sport has changed a lot and it has changed to the point where I am not enjoying it. I don’t have the passion for it and so at this time it’s better if I retire now.”
I was just as surprised as everyone else was in the press conference room when I watched the footage of him delivering his speech. Stoner has mentioned before that he wouldn’t be one of those racers that goes on forever, just to race. There was always something else for him. Greener pastures per se; A life away from that of the roaming paddock that travels the globe and entertaining millions. But why now? Why at the very top of his game? He’s arguably the best rider of the field right now. He has been skillfully dominating his first year on a Honda, and augmenting how much he was held back by the Ducati Desmosedici.
Change is a tough thing for everyone. The credit crisis has struck everyone around the world, and has toppled many countries and corporations. It’s harder for the average person to shell out the cash to see this circus anymore, and even more difficult for the manufacturers to justify the blue sky engineering that is MotoGP, even if it does translate to safety and sales for their road bikes. For MotoGP to survive, there needs to be a change to rules to make it more sustainable. The flip side to this coin, is that the bikes are more restricted and, in the case of the CRT bikes, can be based on production motorcycles. This is definitely against the grain of what prototype racing is, but everyone agrees that something has to give for the sport to survive.
Stoner has always been opposed to the coming changes in the rules, as it will change the face of MotoGP, and I really don’t blame him. You really do have to be prepared to risk it all in this sport if you want to win, and if your heart is not in it anymore, then it’s definitely time to hang up your hat and call it a day. I’m sure there will be rumors of him coming back into the sport after all the ash has settled, but he’ll be truly leaving now at the top of his game. It’s definitely not slowing him down now, as his battle with Rossi throughout the last part of the race this weekend was truly epic. But I definitely felt the aura of watching an artist at work when watching him ride, and now there are only so many of these moments left for the year.
Lorenzo’s superb performance, Stoner’s pending departure, and Rossi’s skillful resurgence in the rain-soaked Le Mans grand prix has really set the stage for a fascinating year in MotoGP. Not to mention that the silly season has been basically opened up early, with nearly ever top rider out of a contract at the end of this year and Stoner leaving the number one seat open at Honda. I’m thinking I might need to make a quick trip out to Laguna Seca this year, or possibly the Brickyard to get in on this action.
Featured image courtesy of: Mirco Lazzari/Getty Images
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