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9 days ago
By motogp.com

Stoner: “Jorge is a Champion whether he wins or loses”

Stoner and Gabarrini look back at 2007 and ahead at 2017 as Lorenzo prepares for battle

No one put money on the number 27 Ducati taking the title in 2007, but that’s exactly what Casey Stoner went on to do - keeping calm and carrying on under the kind of intense pressure that only comes with a title fight, and his first one no less. By his side that historic season was Cristian Gabarrini – now Track Engineer for Jorge Lorenzo - and the Italian and Australian look back at that historic year, as well as forwards to a new adventure: Stoner now test rider, and Gabarrini with a new Champion in the box.

First, what was it like taking that incredible first crown? For Stoner, a “dream season”, for Gabarrini – no words.

Flashback: Gabarrini and Stoner on 2007

Cristian Gabarrini: “I have no words to describe it. It’s one of the best memories of my life. Especially because with Casey that year, with Ducati, everything was special.”

That season, certainly, marked a distinct turning point in the legend of Stoner, who was suddenly a big fish in the shark pool. After one more title, the Australian then headed into shock retirement at the age of 27, at the end of 2012. 2007 was when it all changed.

Casey Stoner: “To be honest the whole last part of that season was a blur. Because I went from basically being an unknown as far as popularity, and as far as what everybody expected from me during racing. So all of a sudden it all came to me in a big rush. To be honest, after we won the World Championship it was more a relief than a massive celebration for me.”

Fast-forward a decade and the roulette wheel has landed on red for someone else. The man who proved a key rival for Stoner after he moved up to MotoGP™ in 2008 is now following in his footsteps and preparing to race in red, giving Gabbarini the chance to work alongside another Champion – for the Italian,  “something that can happen only once in your life.”

Once rival and now colleague, and a rookie turned Champion. Sharing the same colours with Lorenzo ten years on, what does Stoner make of the Lorenzo ready to line up in Qatar?

CS27: “Jorge has learnt a lot over the years. In his early years, I didn’t really like so much the character he was or the way that he rode with us. But there was a turning point in the later years and he changed completely. And his respect for everybody on the grid changed completely and my respect for him in turn. So since that moment I’ve had nothing but a huge amount of respect for him - whether he wins or loses, he’s a great Champion in that aspect.”