Ducati Marlboro’s Casey Stoner was fuming, but not because he’d qualified fourth. That he could explain. What he couldn’t explain was the behavior of several riders he felt imperiled his life with dodgy riding.Over the course of a16-plus minute press scrum, the 2007 World Champion questioned the wisdom of his fellow riders as well as race control, who he doesn’t believe is enforcing the rules at all and certainly not equally.The list of riders who were less than professional included Loris Capirossi, Alex De Angelis, Randy De Puniet and Toni Elias, according to Stoner. But the rider who incurred the greatest wrath was Sete Gibernau. Stoner offered the Spaniard an obscene hand gesture at the end of the session in which he qualified fourth, just off the front row for Saturday’s Dutch TT.”He’s next door to me and twice, just today, in the same point,” Stoner said when asked who he’d flipped off. “You think they learn, but no.”What upset Stoner is that “doesn’t seem to be any punishment in today’s MotoGP racing, not just in the MotoGP class, but in 125s and 250s. Riders are getting away with everything. There’s no punishment for some unbelievable riding. All there’s been so far this year is a fine, which they took like a joke anyway. So there doesn’t seem to be anything happening for any of the riding that’s going on. Just this weekend alone, I think, six to eight times, I’ve been held up in unbelievably dangerous areas, you know sixth gear, and everybody knows how hard it is to change direction. You’re completely committed to this corner and there’s no way we can change the line, so there’s been some really hairy riding. Just, the riders don’t seem to be considerate to everybody else out there and I think things need to change.”Asked if he’d brought it up in the rider safety meeting, Stoner said the next rider safety meeting is at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and that he’d “tried bringing it up before when things happened last year in the lower categories and nothing happens, never does. So basically, one of you guys can probably run out on the track and kick a rider off and not get in trouble for it. There’s no punishment. You know nothing happens any more.”I remember back in ’06 I got in trouble for holding Dani Pedrosa up. I’ve said this many times, I held him up by that much and I get a 1000 Euro fine. Nobody gets anything any more. And I just, I don’t see where the justice is and something needs to happen.”As for going to race director Paul Butler, Stoner said, “I’m actually trying to set something up to speak to him. I’ve tried to speak to him before, but they just say, ‘You know, it’s racing. It happens,’ but it shouldn’t. You used to see all these riders have really strong races, back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but they had respect for each other. They didn’t go in there and hit each other off the circuit every time and that’s happening way too much these days. People are just playing with people’s safety.”After being given a synopsis of Stoner’s concerns, Butler said that his “instant response to what I’ve been hearing is that we need to all get them in a room and let ‘em say what they think. But there’s obviously not a great deal we can do about it. If we take the instances of 125 riders who are looking for slipstream, it’s the nature of 125 racing. You tell them to be careful and to remember that when they’re waiting or a tow there’s another guy who’s on a flat stick lap, so give space.”The problem is highlighted in Assen because of the narrowness of the track “and the speeds are very high. So differentials are highlighted. We obviously saw the reactions on the broadcast and we did our best to analyze what had happened and effectively the only visible instance was Loris [Capirossi] who, clearly, having looked back, tried to get out of the way of [Alex] De Angelis, but failed to avoid distracting him, as would be the case.”Capirossi slowed in the final corner on the last lap of qualifying.”But everyone makes mistakes. I guess the only criticism would be if you know that you’re approaching that particular section, you’ve got a bit earlier that you could maybe do the looking back there and get out of the way. But I don’t think that the time difference on that lap compared with Loris’s best was relatively speaking a lot, but not comparable to the old qualifying tire, shot qualifying tire.”Butler said he spoke to Capirossi about the incident, saying that “he’s an intelligent and senior rider and basically I was trying to head off any further feeling developing. Obviously, the other reactions were going on at a similar time.”
Stoner On A Rant
Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor
Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.