Reigning world champion Casey Stoner will retire at the end of 2012, the Australian saying he’s lost his passion and love for racing at a time when the Repsol Honda rider is arguably at the peak of his career.
Disillusioned with constant rule changes, weary of criticism that he was a prolific crasher and rumours that the lactose intolerance issue he first suffered in 2009 was grossly overplayed were all contributing reasons for his shock decision, said the Repsol Honda rider.
Stoner confirmed his decision to quit during the pre-event press conference in Le Mans today; an announcement that left rivals Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo stunned and the assembled media shell-shocked.
Rumours of Stoner’s intention to retire first surfaced during the Estoril MotoGP round in Portugal earlier this month.
He played down reports and said he was still in discussion with HRC about his future, with Honda management desperately trying to convince him to stay after he handed the Japanese factory its first MotoGP crown since 2006 last season.
MCN understands Stoner was offered almost double his current salary to remain in MotoGP having started the 2012 season with third in Qatar, followed by brilliant victories in Jerez and Estoril.
But Stoner, who won his first MotoGP title with Ducati in 2007 and has won 35 premier class races, said: “This has come after a long time thinking, a lot of time talking with my family and my wife (Adriana), this has been coming for a couple of years now but at the end of this 2012 season I will not be racing in the 2013 championship.
"I will be finishing my career at the end of this season in MotoGP, and go forward with different things in my life, After so many years of doing this sport which I love, and which myself and my family have made so many sacrifices for, after so many years of trying to get to where we have gotten to at this point, this sport has changed a lot and it has changed to the point where I am not enjoying it.
"I don't have the passion for it and so at this time it's better if I retire now. There are a lot of things that have disappointed me, and also a lot of things I have loved about this sport, but unfortunately the balance has gone in the wrong direction. And so we won't be continuing any more.
"It would be nice if I could say I would stay one more year, but then when does it stop? So we decided to finish everything as we are now."
Asked to elaborate on the reasons for his decision, he denied the birth of his first child Alessandra in February had been a pivotal factor.
The dumbing down of rules to let tweaked 1000cc production engines to race in MotoGP was a factor, further removing the series away from its prototype ethos.
“I've been watching this championship a long time and it is very easy to see what works and what doesn't.
"This championship and everything I've done to get here has been a huge dream of mine and then to realise a lot of things, whether it's people having no faith in you or people not believing in your talent or the changes that have happened to the championship.
"2009 was a big eye-opener to me, everyone still until this day says it was a mystery illness, the fact that no one understands that I have a lactose intolerance, which is really critical, it just takes all my energy and stops me from absorbing nutrients. No one listened to me on that. Many things over time have taken their toll.
"The direction I see the championship heading and the fact that in 2009 I realised what was important and that's family and happiness. Money isn't everything. I think that I am one of the few riders who can actually say they have retired when they have stopped enjoying it.
"My passion has slowly ebbed away from this championship. It is not the championship I fell in love with. It is not the championship I always wanted to race in. This is a MotoGP championship, this is a prototype championship.
"People can talk about the past with it starting as standard machines and progressed to prototype machines, now we are taking the opposite step and going backwards.
"There are many, many different reasons, but it is basically me losing my passion for the racing and my enjoyment of this sport. For sure I will enjoy it this year but for sure if I continued it would only be a mistake on my behalf. It wouldn't be correct to Honda and my team if I didn't give 110%.
"I've loved bikes, this is my whole life and if I keep doing it I'm afraid I'm going to lose my passion and not want to go near a bike for the next 10 years, and that would scare me, "said Stoner.