Duncan Bishop

Casey Stoner: Mr 800cc

Duncan Bishop

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So, on Sunday
morning what we all expected came to pass: Pope Benedict XVI announced that he
was partial to a good Mass and a bear owned up to a rather unsightly mess in
local forestry. Alright, that may be slight embellishment on this column's
part, but what was confirmed at Phillip Island was equally unsurprising: Casey
Stoner became the new MotoGP World Champion.

Jorge Lorenzo's
crash-induced absence from the main event made life easier for the Australian,
but Stoner was never going to settle for second place anyway. In 2007 he had to
be convinced by the event organisers and his Ducati team to step onto the
podium and accept his first World Championship trophy at Motegi, so
disappointed was he to have clinched the title with a 'meagre' sixth place
finish instead of a top three placing. Sixth was all he needed then, and it was
all that he needed on Sunday after Lorenzo's warmup off.

This time
around, things went perfectly, and Stoner could celebrate his 26th
birthday with a race win and a second spell as MotoGP's top rider.

Stoner must
surely now be considered THE rider of the 800cc era - a period that may not be
looked back upon with excessive fondness by MotoGP fans in the future thanks to
the processional racing served up frequently since 2007. His spells of
dominance on the Ducati Desmosedici and now the Honda RC212V have been obvious
to the even the most casual of observers on nine separate race days this
season, but where his 800cc legacy will really live on is in the record books.

Of the 87 races
contested since the introduction of the class in 2007, Stoner has been on pole
31 times and taken victory on 32 occasions. That's a win percentage of over a
third - including the four Grands Prix for which he didn't take the start.

For the sake of
comparison, Dani Pedrosa has managed thirteen wins in four years on the Honda
(Stoner has nine on the same bike this season alone) and Jorge Lorenzo has been
on the top step of the podium seventeen times since his premier class debut in

The only real
case to be made for anyone else to be considered 'Mr. 800cc' is, of course,
Valentino Rossi. He holds eleven less wins than Stoner, but is the only other
two-time World Champion on this most recent generation of bikes.

The first Stoner
championship push caught people by surprise. With title number two and his most
consistent season to date and after becoming the first man to win 800cc titles
for two different factories, there are now few arguments to level against him.
Was his switch to Honda as risky as Rossi's to Ducati? Maybe not, but anytime a
rider changes from one factory to another there is a gamble involved.

If we are
being selective with our facts, then a counter-argument exists that Honda only
won a total of four races in 2010 - just one more than Ducati. Nobody had gone
from Borgo Panigalle, Italy
(Ducati HQ) to Aalst, Belgium (the home of Repsol Honda) and
won a four-stroke Grands Prix before. Stoner's satellite team season with LCR
on a 990cc was no guarantee of success five years later. So Rossi was not the
only one taking a step into the unknown.

This isn't just
a direct comparison with Rossi though. This is about which rider you will look
back upon as the master of the 800cc half-decade. Has anyone ridden a bike in
such style as Stoner? Ragged, on-the-edge, pushing the front end to the limit
and applying the throttle mid-corner on the precipice of rear grip. Or made as
many clean sweeps of practice sessions and qualifying, leaving his rivals one
step behind all weekend?

Not this season,
and not since Qatar 2007. All hail the king of 800cc riding. The 1000cc
monsters await.

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