Friday, 18 May 2012

Bye Bye Casey, Well Done Chris Walker and More...

Apologies dear readers (yes, both of you!) for the delay in producing the latest Straw Bales blog, I’d love to have a fantastically elaborate reason for the lack of activity...but I don’t, it’s just real life getting in the way!

Anyway, I’m back so let’s continue...

I’ve got a page full of notes to get through but at the risk of boring you silly I’ll stick to the juicy stuff! And no doubt juiciest of the lot is the announcement from Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner that he will be retiring from MotoGP at the end of the season. He admits he has lost the love for the sport, is also unsure where MotoGP is heading, as well as having a very young family addition, and has taken the massive decision to hang up his leathers.  

To all but the most casual of observers it is well known that Casey was never going to stick around and smash records season on season, picking up fat cheque after fat cheque as he goes. Neither was he ever going to get on a bike that could potentially damage his illustrious career and reputation, never mind the potential melting pot of getting on a bike that clearly doesn’t suit him or his style and ending up mid-to-late top ten race after race...that was never going to happen.

Joking aside I will be sad to see the back of Casey Stoner the racer, his incredible style and grace in man-handling his 230+BHP Honda around some of the best tracks in the world has been genuinely a joy to watch. I’m not going to stir up the hornet’s nest of other riders fans but for those of you firmly stand in that bracket, please, I ask you  as motorcycle racing fans  just take a minute to watch him at Barcelona in a few weeks time. I truly believe that if you fail to be even remotely moved by his dancing, sliding Honda at full chat then you clearly have no motorcycle racing soul. Put your prejudices and personality attacks to one side, even pretend it’s your favourite rider if you like, but they way he throws that bike around that circuit in particular is just mesmerising, believe me.

As for Casey the person it’s difficult to comment, I don’t know him so it would be wrong to make assumptions, all I can say is he has a job to do and when it’s not going right he moans about it. You do the same in your job, I know I do! Casey is and always has been a motorcycle racer - not interested in dealer days, PR stunts, making the right impression etc he has always let his racing do the talking, and how!

One thing that the series organisers could do with sitting up and taking note of is Casey’s thoughts about the future of MotoGP, its lack of direction and the potential leaning towards an all-CRT grid. This is something that needs to be addressed and soon as there seems to be no firm direction for the series to take at this point in time and the racing, save for the first three laps at Jerez and the last three laps at Qatar, has been predictable and dour. It needs fixing, and fast!

So thanks for the memories and images Casey, enjoy retirement.

Earlier last week a British newspaper printed a story that alleged Valentino Rossi was to retire at the end of the year when his contract expires with Ducati Corse. Twitter exploded with wailing and much gnashing of teeth at the news of the ‘greatest rider in MotoGP history’ hanging up his leathers. There were a multitude of suggestions as to what he’d go on to do, many people also asked if the social networks would be filled with race fans again once the the great yellow one and his fans had departed...only kidding, this is a light-hearted blog before you all start writing in and complaining, I suppose! It’s banter and it makes the world go it’s my blog so nerrrr!

It took the GOAT himself to appear on twitter in a puff of yellow smoke to basically say rumours of his departure had been greatly over exaggerated. So we have, after the Press Conference at Le Mans yesterday – after the above story was released –VR confirmed he wanted to continue for at least two more seasons after this one, so many more opportunities to see his ‘verrry verrrry ‘appy’ smiling face and I for one would love to see him back up at the sharp end of MotoGP on any make of machine (although I almost guarantee it wont be a Honda!) and proving he can still cut it with the current New World Order. Forza Vale.

Staying on a MotoGP theme for a moment, one thing that the departure of CS 27 does provide is a spare seat at the top table of MotoGP racing. Nobody expected that until the end of next season realistically – and with all factory and satellite rides, bar one pasty ginger kid firmly planted in Tech 3 for 2013, up for grabs next season it’s going to be the best ‘Silly Season’ ever...and it starts now! And for those asking, no it wont be Marc Marquez...not unless Dorna revoke the Rookie Rule that says all class newcomers will spend their first season in a Satellite team, I mean, they’d only do that if it was a talented Repsol-backed Spaniard, ah....


Over in the real world of British Superbikes it’s been an entertaining couple of weeks. The highlight of which, for me, saw Housewives across the country fanning themselves with their Woman’s Weekly’s as Chris ‘Stalker’ Walker aboard his Pr1mo Bournemouth Kawasaki Racing ZX-10R take a well-deserved race win at Oulton Park on Bank Holiday Monday. It was a great display from the old fella and well worthy of a blog mention. Congrats to Pete Extance, Stalker, Ray Stringer and the crew on a job well done.

During the broadcast everyone’s favourite chicken farmer Paul Bird went live on TV and said he was replacing James Ellison at the Le Mans MotoGP with his Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki rider Shane Byrne... I was pretty incensed by his comments and the tone in which they were delivered, not least of all for the embarrassment to James and Shakey. Fortunately someone higher up than Paul Bird has seen sense in the issue and a hastily prepared statement confirmed James will continue on the Aprilia and just this week Aprilia Racing Team released some of Randy de Puniet’s data to the PBM squad so hopefully James will have a more settled time in France and beyond.

I have lots of respect for Paul Bird and what he’s done, and spent, on British Superbikes and Supersport over the years but he’s a liability on live broadcasts – he needs to employ a Team Manager to run the team while he can just bark orders from the back of the garage.

‘Six from six’ proclaimed the BSB Twitter feed, and I for one couldn’t be happier. It’s great to see what is heralded as the best domestic championship in the world living up to its billing. Six different winners from the first six races is a great statistic and testament to the riders, teams and level of competition again this season. I think this season will shape up to be a straight fight between Tommy Hill and the loveable Aussie...see what I did there... Josh Brookes. Both have been a model of consistency so far this season and we all know that consistency is the key to winning any championship and this one will certainly go all the way to Brands Hatch in October again, subject to both boys staying injury-free! I can’t wait to see this one unfold over the coming rounds...

One rider we wont see over those coming rounds, at least not on his hard-to-please Kawasaki, is Lincolnshireman Peter Hickman. Big Pete announced last Thursday night, somewhat surprisingly, that he would be riding at the Donington Park round of World Superbikes as stand-in for the injured John Hopkins in the Fixi Crescent Suzuki team. Unfortunately on the Friday his Kawasaki team issued a strongly-worded statement saying they hadn’t given permission for Pete to ride for another manufacturer and wouldn’t comment further, until they announced his sacking on the Monday after the races. Hickman had a race one to forget in World Superbikes but in race two he finished a very creditable ninth – proving that his struggles in BSB were more bike related than anything else.

It’s a shame that it ended up that way for Hicky, but in that situation I maybe would have done the same. I hope something comes up soon for him as he’ll be missed until then – hopefully returning on a more competitive bike and running back towards the front as he was last year.

Thanks for reading.