Casey Stoner: "MotoGP Has Gone Soft"

After the formal press conference which traditionally kicks off every MotoGP weekend, Casey Stoner stayed on to speak to the English-language journalists at the Dutch track. The subject turned to the cold-tire highsides which saw Valentino Rossi and Hiroshi Aoyama injured, and taken out of action for at least a couple of months in both cases. Stoner was clearly sympathetic to the plight of both Rossi and Aoyama, but when one journalist asked if something needed to be done to prevent such injuries, the Marlboro Ducati rider pointed out that it had always been that way in the premier class. "Look at the 500s," he told reporters, "the riders were always flicking themselves back then."

But when another journalist suggested that we do not want to see a return to the bad old days of the 500cc two-stroke bikes, Stoner became vehement. "It was my dream to ride them," Stoner told the press, and went on to point out that this tendency to shy away from danger is part of an underlying trend in the modern sport. "This sport's becoming wimpy," Stoner said, "if everyone's not wrapped up in cotton wool, and it's not walls here, and walls there, there's no danger to the sport any more."

That created problems of its own, the Australian avowed. "Everybody just expects to go out there and be perfectly safe and perfectly happy," Stoner said, and that undermined the point of the sport. "I mean, what adrenalin rush are you going to get if there's no actual fear in it?"

The call for more protection was part of a bigger problem, Stoner suggested, saying that he felt that the sport was not taking the right direction. The addition of hard standing on the outside of corners was a typical example of this wrong direction, Stoner said. "Basically, you can just run off the track," Stoner told the assembled press. "You saw the 125s at Silverstone, they were using all the track and coming back on." That's not the way it should be, according to the Australian. "In my view, if you run off, it's your fault, deal with it, you get a bit of a bump or whatever."

All that extra hard standing and run off merely created a new set of dangers, Stoner explained. "There's no fear in the riders any more," the Marlboro Ducati rider said. "They keep going further and further, and it's going to come to a point where everybody starts to really smash into each other, which we've kind of seen in Moto2. It's becoming dangerous in that aspect, there's no respect for each other."

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Stoner clearly points out at dangers from reckless riding. For example, someone going off the track but rejoining and full speed in the middle of traffic simply because the run off was a flat and harmless tarmac strip. Like that corner in Assen was which reprofiled this year.

You guys are mixing things.

But wasn't it Stoner that took time off with a "mystery illness" last year - imagine if he was on a 500 and actually got flung!!
Stoner is soft!!

He can go ride at the IOMTT or Macau.

I have a feeling he'll prefer run off room.

I think the organizers of those races should send him a personal invitation. Schwantz raced at Macau didn't he?

I suppose he'll have the chance to ride at Suzuka when he goes to Honda. We'll see if that race is written out of his contract. That should determine how seriously he takes his racing risks.

You will find that SUZUKA 8 HOUR hasnt been using any MOTOGP riders for ages. Its a pity, as I covered the 1990, 1994 and 1997 races there.

Actually, its a pity that they dont use SUZUKA as a MOTOGP track anymore. You can thank ROSSI for that. He complained after KATO was killed.

Strange crash, but, could not blame the track for that.

I wish the MOTOGP wold go back to SUZUKA, as I would go there for that race.

I too wish MotoGP would return to Suzuka... certainly one of my much lamented lost classic tracks, along with Salzburg (truly scary tho), Hockenheim, etc. Motegi is uninspiring in the extreme.

I may be wrong, but I think Kato struck a protruding piece of wall and it could hence be argued that it WAS a fault of the Suzuka track. As I understand, it was a strange crash as he and the bike went off in a quite unusual trajectory. Under braking for the chicane, instead of the more typical losing the front and sliding straight on, he lost the back, got it all out of shape and veered off track to the left, hitting the exposed piece of wall square on instead of what should have been a glancing blow on a more properly placed wall (such as Nakano's Mugello main straight crash).
That piece of track had ample possibility to be corrected so as to make a similar outcome essentially impossible (I'm sure it has already been done). More of a problem is the superb corner between the hairpin and spoon curve, that is very quick, has little run-off and drops down sharply to the returning main straight underneath. That might be very difficult/expensive to fix. Maybe that big left hander up the hill too (Dunlop Curve?). Where else is a problem on Suzuka? I've never been there, never ridden it, and never risked my life to go fast around there, I'm just a fan who misses seeing racing on what I consider 'classic' tracks.

Anyhow, getting OT. In general I reckon Casey's got a bit of a point, look at some of the places WSBK goes and how much slower are they really? Nobody wants to see riders get injured, but at the same time being so risk averse that they only race on sterile modern circuits also sucks. Who else would love to see a MotoGP race at Monza??

I believe the hard shoulders are put there for F1, so cars don't get bogged. I think CS is not pining for the days of multiple deaths and injuries, just pointing out that there is little penalty for someone running off onto a hard shoulder instead of getting bogged for 10-20 seconds in kitty litter or slipping over on grass.

Speaking of lamented lost classic tracks, I just remembered they're at Assen....

RIP Daijiro

That's my point. If he was in search of a race that wasn't soft he'd volunteer to race for Honda in next years 8 hour. In the past riders have opted out because it was a lot of work for testing and fitting the race in when there was a Grand Prix races on surrounding weekends. But if Casey is looking for a challenge, something like that should be right up his alley. That is, if he was being sincere.

But I still wouldn't call 2006 ages ago when both Tamada and Edwards raced at the Suzuka 8 hour and in MotoGP.

For the moment he's safe... Ducati don't make a bike that can hang together for 8 hours. >:-)

But I agree with you, I reckon it'd be great to see top level riders doing the 8hr again. Rossi took a stand that he didn't want to do it, and as in most things the rest of GP racing followed his lead.

You guys are being awfully harsh. Seems like he is highlighting a reasonable fault. The sport is dangerous, and riders nor the fans should not be deluded otherwise.

the good old days.. according to Stoner, where danger was everywhere. Feeling safe sucks? Ask Wayne Rainey if there could ever be enough safety measures. Does Stoner even know who Daijiro Kato was? Kato could have used one less wall in his life or maybe a bit more run off. A rider usually has control over where/how he comes back onto a track, not the same when loosing control and crashing off of the track
",, a bit of a bump"? Where does this stuff come from?

Casey makes some very good points. I think MotoGP has gone way too soft over the last few years, but not in terms of track safety. Taking the hard bits out of the way on the tracks eliminates an unnecessarily dangerous part of the sport and increases a rider's lifespan. Adding the hard standing run off, decreasing the cc's and wrapping the bike in bubble-wrap electronics evens out the playing too much and puts more emphasis on size and weight for the riders than it does skill.

It's a shame that we can't see the sport go back to larger displacement, less electronics and scary acceleration where the combination of skill and balls made the real difference. It was fairly disheartening to hear Edwards on the pre-race show for Silverstone talk about how he, "doubted they would lift at all going into Copse, we'll probably just keep it pinned and let the electronics do their thing."

I agree with Casey. This sport needs inherent risk and danger to make it great. However, it doesn't need to be dangerous to the point of life-threatening due to porr track design and environmental factors.

In the second paragraph he is complaining that there isnt enough danger, that its too safe.

Then in the fourth and fifth he is complaining because its becoming too dangerous.

Poor kid.

It's an unfortunate aspect of our sport that eventually everyone goes down, and unfortunately, this occasionally this means injury. I'm not sure if this was some machismo bluster or what, but I can't understand the resistance to reasonable safety precautions: Casey may appreciate these 'excessive safety measures' when his number comes up. I personally feel sick in the pit of my stomach when I see any rider go down hard, so I tend to support whatever can reasonably be done to reduce serious injury.

Safety is big business b/c injured riders and retired bikes don't garner good ratings. When Rossi, Lorenzo, Stoner, Hayden, Spies, or anyone else of perennial/annual intrigue isn't fit, the sport can't make max money and everyone remembers to price injuries into their bids for MotoGP's media. Same goes for the organizers. Now that Rossi is badly injured, this is not a good time at all for Dorna to renegotiate any contracts. The best thing for business is for all of the riders to be 100% at every single round.

Stoner knows knows it's all about business and PC culture. He's an Australian farmboy so it makes sense he would react badly.

No need to take it to the other extreme by suggesting he should ride IOM TT or Macau. He likes things they way they are, he resists attempts to keep bikes in the race with tarmac runoff or "soft" rules designed to make sure no one is injured. Maybe it's a bit nostalgic and regressive, but he does have a point. Safety in the name of insurance premiums and TV revenues isn't really worthwhile.

AND want to see how well our GP heroes do in Macau?

It's just funny for such a young guy, so often in tears in the 125 and 250s when things didn't go so well, who took off so much time last year to recover from a mystery illness to start tossing out terms like 'soft' about anything. Too funny to not take the opportunity to get in a few good natured jokes. Sometimes that doesn't come through in text.

I think people like Casey's off the cuff remarks. I think it shows he's a fan of the sport like the rest of us.

But I would like to see Grand Prix racers participate in public road and Endurance racing as well. Maybe a sub championship for those who wish to participate in all forms of road racing. It could be a special championship for those who participated in IOMTT, Macau, LeMans 24 hours, Suzuka 8 hours then two MotoGP races like Assen and Sepang.

Seeing Casey competing on the Irish road racing scene. It'll be great seeing him doing 240kph+ down bumpy country roads lined with trees, telegraph poles and/or stone walls!

while it is obviously an 'emotionally reactive' interview with casey, it is HIS opinion about what HE dreamed of & has the obvious talent to DESERVE to have dreamed this kind of thing. even rossi has said similar, if more PC-worded.

we DO live in horribly accident-paranoid times with insurance premiums all but killing the thrill of a lot of things. even fair grounds are somewhat shadows of their former selves. gun-control measures being another example - the 'bad guys' & 'lunatics' can still get guns easily. learning that guns - to continue with this example - are dangerous will perhaps teach a healthy FEAR & RESPECT of their power. funny, people are easily scared of knives, however.

what about cellphone using SUV drivers??? certainly keeps ME on my toes while riding around in traffic & the sidewalk for that matter!! :D

fear is a great teacher & mortality perhaps THE greatest teacher.

nothing wrong with that - just our sissy culture of money-love & more-money-love! :D

there are NO guarantees that the money will last, so let the danger & excitement return.

i am sorry too, but 15 bikes does NOT make a grid - except for perhaps the SV650 cup!

watch 'faster' for a recap of the way GP racing was not so long ago AND to notice what the rider's felt about the danger & speed!

dorna is a crock!

For sure Motorcycle racing wouldn't be the same without its dangerous nature but I will support any measure taken in order to avoid or reduce deaths and injuries.

Casey misses the fear of being thrown out from the bike (those sissy engineers) but finds annoying the fact that forgiving runoffs may cause an unexpected crash from riders coming back to the track. There you go, he can have his adrenaline rush on those flat run offs!. I they want real danger they can always choose to ride without a helmet.

The last thing I would say about ANY MotoGP rider is that he is a wimp!. Are you kidding! all of them are really brave. However fear management is a huge issue in the sport still. Look at Dany Pedrosa last weekend, he was poised to win that race, however after two crashes and a couple of near misses, he lost his confidence to keep the pace. Without that edge he ends midfield instead of getting a podium. Is he a wimp? Not for sure, he does have balls. My guess is that almost any rider loses a couple of tenths because fear issues related to incidents during previous laps or sessions.

It would be great to see today's riders racing 2 Stroke 500's without electronic aids, just for fun. I reckon Stoner would be al least in the top 3.

He did but that was saying just what he said then. To aggresive like whats happening in the moto2 class. I think its easy to take out of context what he said. He is passionate and outspoken. I think he is saying it is all becoming homogenized and in certains respects I agree. Bring me the big bikes soon and BMW into the mix...

Casey seems a little bored without HIS screamer engine(wee too...),give him a raw engine like is his ride :)

... it should may be transferred to the forum. I think Stoner makes a good point here. I don't think that what he's trying to say is that he wants it more dangerous. I think he's trying to say that if you keep pushing the limit of safety further and further, riders will eventually push their own limit and that of the bikes to the new "safety limit", making things even more dangerous as a result. This, according to him, happens because riders feel safer and safer and end up driving recklessly and doing things they wouldn't have tempted before. The interview with Nicky Hayden in the other post sort of confirms this view...

That's a pretty good summary of what he's trying to say. But the impression I got from Stoner was that he regrets the crashes are not in the rider's control. Before the danger was that you would make a mistake and hurt yourself. Now, riders are less likely to be hurt by their own mistakes, and more likely to be hurt by the mistakes of others. 

If he thinks its gone soft because its too safe perhaps he's been racing on ultra-safe FIM homologated tracks too long.

Where I race the run off is hard dirt covered in large rocks and 2 foot deep drainage ditches (no kidding!) and one of the turns is a 170+ mph knee dragging affair. I went off in the next turn at about 130 mph and was extremely lucky to walk away with a broken clavicle, cracked socket & rib and bruised lung because others have died. Perhaps he should come out to my neck of the woods and then we'll see what if its too soft out there in MotoGP land.

Is he saying that amateur club racers the world over are braver than he?

anywhere that Casey said he liked hard projecting walls,telephone poles, or people being injured,and certainly not killed .Nor does he advocate dangerous ,out of control riding.What I did understand him to say was that the hard overruns had altered the racing and that the tracks and the bikes do not penalize mistakes and overzealous racing,creating dangerous and out of control moves,which he has experienced and spoken out about his dislike for same. The same for the electronics,which Colin's comments speak to. There are still crashes and consequences,as he acknowledged.He simply sees them as part of the game,not something to be eliminated at the cost of the competition. As for the 500's,he is not alone in bemoaning their absence and the balls it took to ride them. For that matter,is there any doubt Nicky misses racing the 1000's or that Dani is glad they don't. There is a reason they ride what they ride on the tracks that they do. They are a commodity and need to be protected. Casey stating that there is a lamentable difference in what it takes to ride them is understandable and merely his feelings vocalised. That is a far cry from running the TT or Irish Road Racing etc. His comments concerned MotoGP and the tracks and bikes utilised. Disagreeing with him is understandable,but mischaracterizing his remarks is altogether different.

The problem with going off track to overtake (on 2 OR 4 wheels) is that there is a high probability of t-boning someone when they return on track. Re safety issues, practice should return to 4 x 1 hour sessions. " Cost cutting " is so much f***ing bullshit, one crash because of insufficient time to arrive at a workable set up wipes out any theoretical "cost cutting " to say nothing of the probability of serious injury to the rider, loss of results, leading to possibility of sponsorship loss / reduction and it goes on........................ On other poster mentioned that on-board tyre temp sensors have been banned, again as " cost cutting " !! They are an invaluable asset to set up ,as well as a safety aid ! This is what happens when rules are made by f***wits with little or zero technical knowledge. Looking at the Moto GP rules no one, should ever underestimate the power of stupid people in groups.

The technical rules in MotoGP are drawn up in principle by the MSMA, the manufacturers, and agreed by the other members of the GP commission. So in principle, the technical rules are drawn up with assistance from the engineers from the Japanese manufacturers. They should therefore have enough technical knowledge to draw up good rules, but apparently, they don't see the long term consequences of the rules. 

That's what my old boss used to say about meetings. It was a ridiculous way to conduct business, but "none of us is as dumb as all of us" is a hilarious truth about the dangers of groupthink.

Anywho, I think the dirty little secret about the tire temperature sensor ban is that somewhere along the line, Rossi very much in favor behind the scenes b/c it would require more rider expertise. Of course, he was the first major casualty of their ban which is why he was so quick to blame himself for the accident and not Bridgestone or a faulty electrical glitch. He dislikes electronics and he was anxious not to let his injury influence their reintroduction even when his tibia was protruding through the skin!!

Some people have said they are not important sensors which very well may be true, but if they don't filter into TC, why are they on the bike in the first place. I know the teams certainly want race data so they can make engineering decisions, but it seems strange to gather data but refuse to use it in real time.

Ah what a shame, but that's about right for our knee jerk homogenised developed world culture. I'm with Casey. For sure the risk needs to be minimised but we still need that hit in the vein - the fear/excitement induced adrenalin. I have never felt so alive and focused as when racing.

A trollish title, David. Careful what you fish for ;)

Casey talks like he rides. From the heart. I really can't understand why he has haters.

I, for one, vote for shark tanks, spiked walls and lava jumps.

May corporate political correctness and lowest common denominators die a fast death and may motorcycle racing live forever!

Are poor bedfellows. I puzzled over the title, trying to condense Stoner's quote into a space that will fit in the title. That's really hard, and subtlety is the first casualty.

For those of you that miss that circuit, please take a moment to look over that list. Daijiro Kato may have been a high profile death, but there have been many, many more. MotoGP discontinued that circuit with good reason.

More specifically at Stoner's remarks.. how are any of you suggesting that he means MotoGP is too safe? He was asked what he felt could be done to prevent injuries like Rossi's and Hiro's. Dani Pedrosa is a good example of his answer. He clearly backed off his pace because he did not feel safe enough to push to the level he knew he could. Keeping a keen mind about the hazards of racing, is sure to net you less injuries.

mostly cars - over a large period of time - the isle of man TT is deadlier.

bike deaths at suzuka seem based on trauma to throat & neck region - following hitting protective barriers at speed head first - one will have to assume.

anywau, as many have said far more eloquently & clearly than i can, its not about death & injury, its about controlling the savage beast & making a poetic dance in the face of death on route to a victory in a modern-day colosseum filled with admiring patrons of the moto-gladiator, as dr. costa might have said! :)

Wow, many rather large posts on this subject.

I don’t think Casey is advocating more dangerous tracks, just a little less attention and concern for minor risks. No one wants our heroes of the sport to be injured.

I think he – like me and many others – would like to see the winners decided by a rider’s right wrist and bravery, rather than the quality of the computer programmers back at the home office.

I would like to see only three rules for MotoGP bikes. A minimum weight limit - carburetors (connected by a cable not fly-by-wire), and a maximum of 4 cylinders.

Who would've thought that i would agree with Casey on something, impressive statement.

Some fair points by Casey regarding an excess of paved run-off in certain corners in the name of safety, which can actually have the unintended effect of allowing riders to recklessly enter too hot, or rejoin the fray at a speed/trajectory that can cause problems for riders that didn't run off.

I'm sure he thinks there's a corner at Laguna that could use a little less pavement on the inside too, but I digress...

But what this has to do with the old 500's, I'm not quite sure...

I recall Spies telling Lawson (Yamaha promotional video) how he'd have loved to ride the 500's from back in the day. And Lawson basically responded, no you wouldn't, those bikes sucked.

If you read the Autosport article above, you will see a familiar name as the co-author - our own David Emmett. What started out as a "hobby" for David is now a career and it makes me proud and jealous (!) to see how far he has come in such a short time. Two thumbs up to Kropotkin. Let him know how much you appreciate what he does.