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Casey Stoner: An interview with the World Champion

Casey Stoner: An interview with the World Champion

The 2011 MotoGP World Champion speaks to following victory in his home race in Australia, which secured him his second premier class title.

Congratulations Casey, how does it feel to be the 2011 MotoGP World Champion?
“It feels pretty good actually! This is something we’ve been waiting for the last few races, we knew we had a chance to do it here but the possibility of it happening was very slim. Jorge has been so consistent and solid this season and he finally slipped up this morning. It wasn’t a good way to go out, with an injury like he’s got, but it did open the door for us to win the Championship today and we managed to do it, we managed to go out with a win, in my home GP, on my birthday… it’s something really special.”

How special does it feel to do it on home soil?
“It’s definitely something that not too many people are able to do, in their home Grand Prix, and especially on their birthday and to win five in a row all in one day is something very special and I’m sure it will be in our minds for a long time to come.”

This is your second MotoGP World title, with a four-year wait since the last one, how does this one compare to the one from 2007?
“This one definitely feels a lot more special. In 2007 people tried to belittle me a little bit, and sort of take the credit away from me and my team and what we achieved. Since then, especially this year, I think people have really realised what we’ve got, what we’re capable of, and this year we’ve had 11 poles, nine wins so far, and it’s just been a dream season so a big thanks to my team, everybody, and a big thanks to Repsol Honda for giving me this opportunity.”

Is there one moment during the season you’ll look back on as a definitive moment or as a turning point in the Championship?
“I think too many people look at defining moments and turning points. I think the season just progresses as it does and the only turning point is when the Championship is over. I think there has been no real turning point or anything during this season and I don’t find them during any other season, so we’ve just been keeping our heads down and slowly racking up the wins and podiums and that’s got us that points lead that we have now. Coming from so many points down at the beginning of the season is something we’re really happy with, we pulled the points lead back and got it into our own grasp, and from there held it and kept it going until now.”

What has been the sweetest victory for you this season?
“I’d say Laguna Seca was the sweetest victory. Race one in Qatar was fantastic, the first race on the bike, but people seem to consider me as a bit of a Qatar specialist so I think Laguna this year, when we were pretty much down and out of the race and nobody really expected us to be competitive, and we were there, we sat there patiently throughout the race, tried to learn a few tricks and try and ride the bike a little differently. Then when we found our speed we decided to put the hammer down and we managed to come out with the win, so that was by far my best.”

Just talk us through this race here in Australia. You built up a good lead and then the weather started to change, what came into your mind when the rain started coming down?
“At the beginning of the race everything was really good. I think we would have struggled a little bit more if Jorge was still racing in this one, I think he was a lot more competitive in the dry conditions and was riding really well this weekend so we would have maybe had to push a little bit harder at the beginning of the race. We sort of managed that gap and were pulling out a fairly big lead without risking anything so everything felt comfortable and the rain came. When the first part of the rain came I really just managed the gap and tried to keep it exactly the same as it was and we managed to do that, but then the rain came the second time and it was a lot heavier and nearly caught me out so we had to take it very gingerly, very cautious over those next laps but then the track dried out again. Again I wasn’t too sure how hard to push and I just did all that was necessary to bring it home for the win.”

We know from what you’ve said at each GP throughout the season that you have been focusing on each race at a time, but was there one moment in the season where the Championship entered into your consciousness?
“Yes, I think to a certain degree every race it does. It sort of holds you back from pushing that little bit further, and that said I think when things have been an absolute disaster for us we have finished third so we’ve had to deal with that and swallow that, which didn’t taste too good sometimes, but they were our worst days we could possibly have so I think we would accept those positions for Championship points and then move onto the next race and see if we could win the next one.”

What were your expectations coming into the season?
“I think I don’t really have any expectations, I don’t look at the season as a whole, I look at it race by race. If you look at the end of the season you’re only at the beginning, it’s not really the best way to start, so we just took it race by race, tried to build up as many points as we could and at the beginning of the season we lost a lot of points and had to really pull them back so that was our main focus for a while, just going out there and winning as many as we could, take as many points as we could, and then at times when things weren’t right we still had to relinquish positions and settle for positions that we weren’t happy with. But all in all we did a great job this season and managed to hold that Championship lead.”

You seemed very relaxed, calm and focused throughout the season but were there any particular moments where you did start to feel a bit of pressure or anything like that?
“Not too much to be honest. I think the pressure came probably after the Jerez Grand Prix at being so many points down and then we went to Portugal and I struggled, didn’t feel too good in that race and struggled a little bit with a back injury there and pulled ourselves back onto third, but we weren’t too happy with the pace so I think since that moment we just started looking forward and everything was good. Knowing how strong and consistent Dani and Jorge are, we definitely knew it was going to be hard to pull back points and without Dani there a lot of the time this year actually was a lot more difficult to pull back points on Jorge or take any advantage – Dani taking points off him, or Dani taking points off me. It changed the way the Championship flow went. We still managed to come out on top more times than not, and it’s been great for us.”

You grew up as a Mick Doohan fan watching him, how does it feel to emulate him in the same team colours?
“This has been a big dream of mine, to be riding for Repsol Honda, and to follow in Mick’s footsteps and race for this team. In his first year in these colours he won the Championship and the same goes for me. We managed to win Repsol Honda’s 100th Grand Prix this year and it’s just been a fantastic year for us – so many achievements, milestones, and hopefully it continues like this. But we have a lot of hard work again.”

Many factors contribute to winning a World title but are there one or two key aspects you can pick out about this season of what has worked so well to help you claim the title?
“I think the two things are not to think too far ahead, or too far sideways. You just have to look at what you have achieved on the day or on that weekend, you can set your goals high but not set your steps too far forward so that’s what we’ve done this year and just taken it step by step and we have managed to get there.”

Your birthday and the World Championship on the same day. How are you going to celebrate that tonight?
“We’ve had my birthday around this time every year since 2001 so I’m pretty used to my birthday being around this stage of the season. But to win it all, the Championship, five in a row here, on my birthday, home Grand Prix, it doesn’t get a lot better than that so I’m sure we’ll enjoy it tonight!”

MotoGP, 2011, IVECO AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX, Casey Stoner, Repsol Honda Team

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