SportMotoGPWhen Stoner refused to form the 'dream team' at...

When Stoner refused to form the 'dream team' at Honda

Casey Stoner shocked the world on the eve of the 2012 French Grand Prix by solving the great enigma of MotoGP by announcing his retirement at just 27 years old, in his seventh season in the category.

After a promising if somewhat bumpy debut in 2006 with the LCR Honda , Stoner stunned the world in 2007 when he signed for Ducati and won the title and 10 races. In the following seasons he continued to showcase his talents with the Desmosedici , finishing runner-up in 2008 to Valentino Rossi and adding a further seven wins in the following two seasons, proving to be the only rider who could tame an extremely difficult bike.

When Ducati courted Jorge Lorenzo he felt unappreciated and left Honda in 2011. That same season he lost his second title and another 10 victories. There was no question who was the favorite going from 800cc to 1000cc for 2012.

Despite a tough winter, in which the RC213V was affected by late weight rule changes and new Bridgestone front tire construction, as well as Stoner’s arm problems, the Australian finished third in Qatar and won the following two races in Spain and Portugal, taking the lead by point before Le Mans.

The news of the withdrawal had emerged before the Estoril race through the press, something that Stoner denied but the doubt remained.

MotoGP introduced radical new CRT bike regulations in a bid to expand the grid, allowing teams to use off-the-shelf technology. At the time, Dorna threatened the dominant manufacturers, Honda and Yamaha, that CRTs would be the future of the series if they didn’t accept his vision for a more competitive championship.

Stoner didn’t like those types of bikes, hated that the top CRT riders were going into parc fermé after races, and hated the possibility that he might one day race a CRT.

Casey Stoner, Repsol Honda Team

Casey Stoner, Repsol Honda Team

But that was just one factor running through his mind. The other, and really the reason behind the decision to withdraw, was his rejection of everything that surrounded the grand prix: public activities, dealing with the press and travel.

“There are a lot of similarities between [Andre] Agassi and Casey’s racing careers,” former Honda team boss Livio Suppo told “They love sports, but they hated a lot of things around them. Casey didn’t like all the public activities and traveling so much.”

“He has been traveling all his life and has done everything. From the time he was a child to the age of 27, he did nothing but run.”

After spending his childhood on the dirt tracks of Australia, Stoner’s family, well aware of their son’s talent, packed up and came to Europe. Stoner ended up in Britain, living in a caravan with his parents while racing national championships and making occasional European and World Championship appearances before his first full season in 2002 in 250cc.

In his autobiography, Pushing the Limits , Stoner notes that he is convinced Honda leaked his withdrawal, he says to pressure him into signing. At the time, Honda had offered him a one-year extension for 2013, but to no avail.

“We were really sad, especially [then HRC chairman] Nakamoto-san,” Suppo recalled when asked by what his feelings were when Stoner notified Honda of his plans. “[Nakamoto] had a crush on Casey because he was the first driver to lead HRC to the title [in 2011]. He had a lot of respect for him and he was really sad.”

“But there was really nothing to do except say ‘can we offer you another year? We’ll pay you very well, etc.’ But it wasn’t about money, especially with a guy like Casey. If he thought the time was right had arrived, there really was nothing to do.

Stoner announced the news at Thursday’s preview press conference at Le Mans . Stoner made clear his distaste for the direction the championship was taking. Speaking her mind was a very her way of withdrawing.

Dani Pedrosa stayed at Honda and Marc Márquez arrived thanks to a change in the rule for MotoGP rookies, which prevented signing for a factory team for the first year.

Stoner’s withdrawal ended Honda’s plans. Everything was ready for him to form the original ‘dream team’ with Márquez in 2013.

Casey Stoner, Repsol Honda Team

Casey Stoner, Repsol Honda Team

“Basically Marc already had a contract because we closed it in 2011 while he was racing in Moto2,” Suppo told “I had a one-year contract for Moto2. Therefore, the original idea was Casey and Marc, and we had to see what would happen with Dani”.

In many ways, Marquez is a clone of Stoner. As Honda-level team-mates they could have swept it away, though Suppo fears it could have been a headache for the team.

“I don’t know what it would have been like to have both of them in the team, because for sure Marquez would have been super fast from the beginning,” says Suppo. “In terms of the show and for the fans, it would have been a ‘dream team’. Probably for us, who would have to manage it, it would have been a bit difficult, different.”

Stoner had strong opposition in his day, with riders like Rossi, Lorenzo and Pedrosa. But Marquez would surely have been his biggest challenge. Would it have been enough to convince Stoner to prolong his career?

“Impossible to answer,” says Suppo. “I really have no idea. In terms of speed, it was difficult to put Casey in a tight spot more than he was pushing himself. I don’t know, I think it would have been interesting to see.”

Interesting it certainly would have been. Not that Honda has lost much in the seven years since then.

Stoner could have won the title in his final year but missed three grands prix with an ankle injury midway through the season and finished third in the standings.

The Southport rider remained linked to Honda as a test rider, although the partnership went awry after a gas issue on his CBR1000RR at the 2015 Suzuka 8 Hours caused him to crash heavily in which he broke his scapula and tibia.

In the post-Stoner era of MotoGP, Márquez has made the Australian forget in HRC with his six titles in seven years.

Honda set up the ‘dream team’ that Stoner denied them in 2012 when they signed Jorge Lorenzo for 2019. The reality was very different and ended in a nightmare that led to the withdrawal of the Spaniard.

During his time as a Ducati test rider from 2016 to 2018, Stoner was on the verge of racing as a wild card, but ultimately didn’t and now enjoys life with his family at home in Australia.

That Thursday, on the eve of the French GP, he had refused to be part of a ‘Dream Team’ that would have marked an era. A ‘dream team’ that seemed to arrive in 2019, when Jorge Lorenzo joined #93, and yet ended up being a nightmare for the Spaniard.

↓ 13 riders who were recycled as MotoGP testers ↓

(click on the photos to see them larger)

Casey Stoner – Honda and Ducati

Casey Stoner - Honda y Ducati

1 / 13
After his premature retirement, the two-time MotoGP champion worked as a tester first for Honda and later for Ducati.

Photo by: Ducati Corse

Dani Pedrosa – KTM

Dani Pedrosa - KTM

2 / 13
After a lifetime linked to Honda, when he left the competition he accepted KTM’s proposal to be their tester.

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Randy de Puniet – Suzuki and KTM

Randy de Puniet - Suzuki y KTM

3 / 13
After a brief stint in WorldSBK, the Frenchman was one of those in charge of leading the development of Suzuki and KTM on his return to MotoGP.

Photo by: KTM

Stefan Bradl – Honda

Stefan Bradl - Honda

4 / 13
Honda relies on the former Moto2 champion to develop the RC213V.

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Bradley Smith – Aprilia

Bradley Smith - Aprilia

5 / 13
Smith combines his participation in MotoE with his work as an Aprilia tester since 2019.

Photo by: Miquel Liso

Jonas Folger – Yamaha

Jonas Folger - Yamaha

6 / 13
Gilbert’s Syndrome forced Jonas Folger to temporarily withdraw from competition. After recovering, he accepted the proposal to be a Yamaha tester.

Photo by: Miquel Liso

Sylvain Guintoli – Suzuki

Sylvain Guintoli - Suzuki

7 / 13
The former WorldSBK champion has been one of Suzuki’s testers since leaving the series-derived motorcycle championship.

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Michele Pirro – Ducati

Michele Pirro - Ducati

8 / 13
The Italian competes in the CIV Superbike, has some wild cards in MotoGP and is the Ducati tester.

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Hiroshi Aoyama – Honda

Hiroshi Aoyama - Honda

9 / 13
In his last years as a pilot, Aoyama worked as a tester for Honda.

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Mika Kallio – KTM

Mika Kallio - KTM

10 / 13
Together with Dani Pedrosa, Kallio forms a luxury test team for KTM, also competing in several grand prix events each year.

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Nobuatsu Aoki – Suzuki

Nobuatsu Aoki - Suzuki

11 / 13
The former rider has been part of the Suzuki test team for years after leaving racing.

Photo by: Suzuki MotoGP

Franco Battaini – Ducati

Franco Battaini - Ducati

12 / 13
The Italian veteran led the development of the Ducati at the beginning of this decade.

Photo by: Ducati Corse

Jorge Lorenzo-Yamaha

Jorge Lorenzo - Yamaha

13 / 13

Photo de: Michelin Sport

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