Casey Stoner: World Champion 2011

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Casey Stoner’s second MotoGP title could not have been achieved in more fitting circumstances, after the Repsol Honda rider secured the 2011 crown on the day of his 26th birthday and at his home race, the Iveco Australian Grand Prix.

The first and only Honda rider to win the MotoGP title in the 800cc era – this year being the last of the engine capacity before an increase to a 1000cc limit in 2012 – Stoner adds to his 2007 title which came in Ducati colours. In taking the 2011 crown Stoner also becomes only the fifth rider to have won premier class titles with two different manufacturers, the others being Giacomo Agostini, Valentino Rossi, Geoff Duke and Eddie Lawson.

Big things were heralded for Stoner when, as a 15 year-old, he made his World Championship debut as a 125cc wildcard at Donington Park in 2001. Having graduated through the same academy system that also produced his future factory Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa, Stoner fully capitalised on the bold move made by his family of moving to Europe to further his fledgling career.

A full time Grand Prix career started in the 250cc category under Lucio Cecchinello’s guidance in 2002, but it was a step down to the 125cc class the following season that saw Stoner’s talent begin to fully flourish with four podiums and a first victory in the final round of the campaign. In 2004 he challenged for the title, taking KTM’s first ever Grand Prix win and ending the season fifth overall.

A step back up to 250s with Cecchinello’s team in 2005 produced a thrilling battle with Pedrosa for the title as Stoner amassed five wins on the Aprilia, and the next year he and the LCR team debuted in the premier MotoGP class on board a Honda as the Australian displayed flashes of brilliance – which included a pole position in only his second race at Qatar and second place in Turkey – mixed with a few disappointing crashes, all part of the learning experience. He had shown enough to encourage Ducati to make an offer to ride on their factory team the next season, and what followed was a stunning campaign.

A maiden MotoGP victory in the first race of 2007 at Qatar was a self-confessed surprise for both rider and team, but once he followed this up with wins at Turkey and China a title challenge became a more than realistic target. His standout performance at Catalunya, where he battled toe-to-toe with five-time champion Valentino Rossi will go down as one of the great races in history, whilst he dominated the mid-season with pole-to-flag victories at three consecutive races at Laguna Seca, Brno and Misano. Stoner went on to secure the title with four rounds to spare, and ended 2007 with a total of 10 wins, 14 podiums and 5 poles.

Defending his title in 2008, Stoner fought rival Rossi intensely as the pair crossed swords on a number of occasions, their duel at Laguna Seca still being talked about as one of the greatest battles of recent years, and the Australian eventually ended the season runner-up to his Italian adversary despite taking 6 wins and 9 poles in a strong second campaign on the Desmosedici.

2009 did not run a smooth course for Stoner, a mid-season three-race break due to fatigue uncovered a lactose intolerance that had affected his physical condition on the bike, and he ended the season 4th overall in the standings. 2010 was to prove not much easier as he took only three wins – all in the final third of the season – on an increasingly hard to tame Desmosedici. By that stage it had already been announced that Stoner would ride for the factory Repsol Honda team in 2011.

The switch has proved a resounding success as the 2007 World Champion displayed the same kind of dominant form that delivered him his first title four years earlier. Pole position and victory in the opening round in Qatar was a sign of things to come, and by the time Stoner won the race in Phillip Island to clinch the title with two more rounds to spare he had already taken nine victories. Added to that race success has been an incredible consistency, which has seen him finish off the podium just once – in the second round at Jerez where he crashed out through no fault of his own.

Winning his home race in Australia for a fifth consecutive season handed Stoner not only his second World title, but his 32nd career MotoGP victory, as he took victory from another pole position – his 11th of the season; this represents a new record for the most poles in one season in the MotoGP four-stroke era.

Some facts about Casey’s achievement

• Casey Stoner is the first Honda rider to win the MotoGP title during the 800cc era of MotoGP.

• Stoner last won the MotoGP championship in 2007 and in winning the title this year becomes the first rider to regain the premier class world title after a three year gap.

• He has been on pole 11 times during 2011, which is a new record for most poles in one season in the MotoGP four-stroke era.

• He becomes only the fifth rider to win the premier class title on motorcycles from two different manufacturers. The other riders to have done this are Giacomo Agostini, Valentino Rossi, Geoff Duke and Eddie Lawson.

• Casey Stoner has 32 career victories in MotoGP, placing him fifth in the all-time premier-class Grand Prix winners list, after Valentino Rossi, Giacomo Agostini, Mick Doohan and Mike Hailwood.