It’s hard to imagine life getting any better for Repsol Honda rider Casey Stoner.
He clinched his second MotoGP world title in front of his home crowd at Phillip Island yesterday, his fifth win in a row in Australia also coming on his 26th birthday.
He’s also going to be a father for the first time in February and he said: "For all these things to be coming so close together, it feels unbelievable. Maybe I don’t put on a show like some other people, but I know what the feeling is like inside and that’s really all that matters. As long as I’m happy and the people around me are happy, that’s the most important thing.
To win this one here on my birthday, my home Grand Prix, and my second world championship, is something just unbelievable. There’s not a lot of people who’ll have that sort of chance to do that, so I’m very thankful and very grateful for that."
Stoner’s surge to his first world title since 2007 wasn’t as easy he might have anticipated, even though closest rival Jorge Lorenzo missed the race with a nasty hand injury he picked up in the warm-up.
Knowing sixth was sufficient to claim the crown following Lorenzo's painful exit, he was cruising to his ninth win of a dominant campaign when rain started to fall with just three laps remaining over the final four corners.
The short but heavy downpour gave Stoner a few nervy moments but he eventually prevailed by over two seconds to spark wild celebrations from a 43,800-strong crowd.
The final stages of the 27-lap race were tricky enough for Stoner though to label his Phillip Island success one of the best of a fantastic season.
He said: "This was probably one of the best because it was hard enough to stay up. I didn’t have to push as hard as what I thought at the beginning of the race and if Jorge were here we’d have had to push a bit more. But when that weather came it was hard for us to know what to do and how to deal with the conditions and how much faster I could go than the others. I nearly came off the track as well. I was pretty lucky to stay on at that point, because I think I was the first person to hit that wall of rain.
"We had that first dark cloud sort of pass over us and then there was a few spits and spats and we were able to sort of keep our advantage there and keep everybody behind us. But when I hit it the second time the rainfall was actually a lot heavier and a lot worse. So I’ve gone into that last turn and as soon as I cracked that throttle again the rear came around and my heart was up my throat. I took it very gingerly for the next laps just to bring it home, because I didn’t really know how much to push. I didn’t have other riders around me to sort of see what’s going on and it makes it very difficult to judge things. I did want to make sure that we went home from here as world champions, but I also didn’t want to give up that race win."
Underlying just what an outstanding season Stoner has put together, he said there has been times when it was disappointing to settle for a podium. Only once has he failed to claim a rostrum and that was when Valentino Rossi wiped him out of a rain-lashed Jerez round at only the second race.
He said: "A bad day this year was third and something we were bitterly disappointed with. For us to be disappointed with third is something special. We’re still happy about it but realising what our potential could be we were still disappointed some times. I’d say Laguna and Brno were the best races because we didn’t have the set-up and didn’t have the perfect ride that weekend and we were a little bit off the pace. But we did something extra for the race to overcome our competitors and they were pretty good races."
Stoner’s success means he will go down in history as the rider to win the first and last championships in the 800cc era.
His 15 podiums in 16 races also ensured that Honda finally won in the 800cc era, with the Japanese factory jubilant after winning its first premier class crown since 2006.
Asked how it felt to restore HRC as the major power in MotoGP again, he added: "I think Dani (Pedrosa) has had the opportunity to get some great results but he’s also been a bit unlucky, so it might have been different if he had not been unlucky. But it does feel special for the fact that Honda has struggled over these last few years and we are able to arrive and take the championship in our first year.
"There was also something special for Ducati to take our championship in the first year with them. So it does feel nice for sure to take the first championship for Ducati in MotoGP and the last one of the 800s for Honda. It has been great season. I don't look back and think about these things too much. I just want to have that nice feeling after we have victories or winning a championship."
For exclusive reaction to Stoner’s title success, see the October 19 issue of Motor Cycle News.