Stoner Walks Away on Top
Casey Stoner is going to be long remembered by Australia's motorsport fans, not only for his outstanding achievements but also because he retired at the peak of his powers.
With his third place in Sunday's season-ending Valencia MotoGP, Stoner stepped away from competitive motorcycling at just 27 years of age.
With two MotoGP World Championships and 38 premier class race victories - every one of them on Bridgestone tyres - he has convincingly proved himself to be one of Australia's sporting greats.
Casey Stoner with the Bridgestone MotoGP Team. Casey was awarded 2 gifts, a photoook of his 38 victories and Tiffany's crystal commemorative trophy which was engraved with a thank you message for Casey. (Click to Enlarge)
Time and again he showed he could get more out of a bike, and a tyre, than anyone else on the track.
And no-one doubts he could have written himself an even larger entry into the record books had he not decided to hang up his spurs.
The evidence was all there. After twice claiming the ultimate prize, the MotoGP World Championship in 2007 and 2011, Stoner was well on the way to claiming a third this year.
With four wins from the first 10 rounds, the young man from Kurri Kurri in New South Wales had the form and the machinery to go all the way.
But in August he crashed heavily in qualifying for the Indianapolis Grand Prix. His damaged ankle kept him off his Repsol Honda for three vital rounds, which ended any realistic chance of retaining his championship.
However, he showed the attitude of a true champion, coming back early against his doctor's advice. A fifth place in Japan followed by a third in Malaysia set him up for a totally dominant victory in the 2012 Australian MotoGP at Phillip Island.
Stoner's complete mastery of his home race, with six straight wins at the Island, will ensure his position as an Australian motorcycling legend as much as his two world crowns and his 45 chequered flags.
His story is now part of pit lane legend.
Stoner was only four years old when he rode in his first competitive race, battling it out in the under-nine age group.
He didn't taste victory for another five years, but they then came thick and fast. When he was 12 he won five Australian titles, in five different categories, over one weekend.
It was at 14 that Stoner made the momentous decision to move to England where he could legally enter road races. In Australia, the minimum racing age was 16 and Stoner didn't want to waste his time.
Just three years later Stoner had shown the talent necessary to earn himself a ride in the 250cc GP World Championships, touring the globe with the best riders on two wheels.
In 2005 his wins saw him secure a solid second place in the championship, with only a crash a Phillip Island ending his tilt at the number one spot.
That was more than enough to get Stoner his entry ticket into the big time - MotoGP. He took pole position in only his second race but his best result for 2006 was a second place in Turkey.
However, that was the end of Stoner's apprenticeship.
Stoner signed with the Bridgestone-sponsored Ducati factory team in 2007 and with six pole positions and 10 race wins he soared to his first World Championship, finishing 125 points clear of the pack.
Three more years at Ducati secured his status as one of the best riders of his generation, being constantly in contention despite struggling with a mystery illness in 2009.
In 2011, the young Aussie switched to the Repsol Honda team and reaped immediate rewards. He won 10 of 18 races to take his second world Championship, which he clinched with yet another thrilling win at Phillip Island.
It was during a pre-race press conference at the French Grand Prix in May this year when Stoner confirmed 2012 would be his last season.
He told the world he simply wasn't enjoying the competition any more but of course the world was still enjoying him - in fact still loving the way he was wringing every last tenth-of-a-second out of race tracks around the world.
At Bridgestone, we're very proud to have played a part in Casey Stoner's outstanding career. His stay at the top was long enough to prove his status as a champion, and short enough to leave us hoping that he might just come back.
We wish him all the best.
Please click images to Enlarge