Casey Stoner made it very clear from the end of last May until the end of the season in November that he was retiring from MotoGP because he didn't like where the sport had arrived and didn't care for its future direction.
Journalists inhaled that story without ever pulling many specific issues of discomfort from Stoner. Instead, most presumed Stoner didn't like PR functions and the sponsor-driven world of professional motorsports, two sources of friction for the Australian since he entered the premier class in 2006.
Stoner opened a crack into his combative mind in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph newspaper in Australia, giving a few more specifics about why he quit.
"Injuries weren't any part of why or retired or that I wanted to do new things," Stoner said. "Family wasn't a part of it, either.
"I just fell out of love with the sport. We had a lack of respect from a lot of people around the sport, and I didn't like the direction it was taking. We got spat at (by fans); they tried to knock us off scooters going from the motorhomes to the pits, everything like that."
Ah, what? Spit on by fans? Are we alone in wondering how Stoner could become a loogie target when he spent so little time near fans?
"Unfortunately they didn't like my honesty in the paddock. That was part of it, but more it was the direction of the sport. We lost a rider a couple of years ago (Marco Simoncelli), and within a month it was like it never happened. They want to see biff and barge, and they don't realize our lives are on the line."
"We became puppets in that world, and it had nothing to do with racing."
Stoner's rant borders on the bizarre. It struck us last year at Laguna that if Stoner really desired to have a better relationship with the people who pay money to watch him race motorcycles, that he could simply spend some time with them. After the post-race press conference at Laguna Seca, a large crowd gathered outside the media center waiting for Stoner. Fans stood with programs and posters to be be signed by the then reigning world champ and race winner. Their hopes of a quick scribble were dashed and the disappointment clear on their faces when Stoner emerged from the press tent, jumped on the back of a team scooter and blazed away with barely a wave. The assembled fans didn't spit on him, which frankly we doubt ever happened, but sure seemed saddened that he could not spare 10-15-30 minutes out of his weekend to sign autographs.
Moreover, the comments about Simoncelli are off-base, if not patently offensive. Simoncelli's memory was honored repeatedly off track throughout 2012, especially at the races at Misano and Sepang. Plus Bridgestone created a softer tire compound that heated up more quickly in races, preventing the kind of early-race highside wrecks that claimed Super Sic's life.
There's no question the insane cornering speeds and electronics prevalent in MotoGP since the 800cc era began in 2007 have put riders at greater risk. But the racing also has become much more processional during that time, so Stoner's comments about "biff and barge" racing are silly when compared with the regular cut-and-thrust of the 990cc era. And if Stoner thought racing an 800cc Ducati was risky, he might want to check some YouTube videos of early 1990s 500cc action or talk with some of the men who raced those fickle beasts.
Stoner made cryptic comments about possibly returning to motorcycle racing if the direction of the sport changed but added those changes probably won't happen.
As usual, Stoner offered no specifics about his desired changes for the sport, instead preferring just to rage against the machine.