When the hottest name on two wheels made the switch to four, Australia – in fact, probably the world – watched as Casey Stoner took to the streets of Adelaide for his first ever Dunlop Series race. And the boy did not disappoint.
Sure, he got pretty well acquainted with the wall in race one, but come race two audiences were treated to a spectacular run of overtakes comparable only to Vettel’s performance at the 2012 Abu Dhabi GP (and to be honest, does it really count when you’ve got DRS at the touch of a button?). Did Clipsal leave the 27-year-old thirsty for more? We caught up with him and his engineer, John Russell to find out.
Red Bull Racing Australia: It’s been a whirlwind few months. How’s the transition been for you?
Casey Stoner: Everything’s gone pretty smoothly to be honest. I think it would be a lot more difficult if the team wasn’t so welcoming, helping us out in every area they can. We’ve been slowly getting into the season, but, like I said, it’s been made a whole lot easier by the team.
RBRA: You were chucked in at the deep end in Clipsal with all those nasty concrete walls – was there much preparation you could do for that?
CS: I had a fair idea of what would be involved, but unfortunately nothing can really replicate what you have to do when you get out there. Craig and Jamie were fantastic, giving bits of advice where they could, but until you’re out there it’s very hard to replicate that. So, I did all I could on simulators, mainly to work on learning the tracks.
RBRA: How were you feeling ahead of Adelaide? Any nerves at all?
CS: Yeah, of course. It was something very alien to me, and not something I’m completely natural with, but I wanted to go and enjoy it – and I definitely did. It was fantastic driving on a street circuit. I’m looking forward to racing on a purpose-built track now, and we’re quite lucky in the DVS series to go to many of the good ones.
RBRA: Thinking back to your first MotoGP race, how did the build-up for this compare to that?
CS: Very different – back then I’d been racing bikes my whole life, and of course I was a little bit nervous. When you step up the different classes, because it’s all generally the same on two wheels, it’s not a big thing, but for me moving from two wheels to four wheels is something I’ve never done before. I was a little more nervous, for sure, than I was going into MotoGP.
RBRA: One round down, six to go. How are you feeling about the season now?
CS: I’m not really expecting too much from this season to be honest. I first and foremost want to enjoy it, but, you know, I’m a competitive driver, I’ll still come out and we’ll see where our results end up. But we have no real goals set, just to try and learn as much as we can, pick up what we can and see where we end up at the end of a weekend.
RBRA: Are you having as much fun as you’d hope you would?
CS: I believe so, yes. Being around Australian competitors, I think everyone seems to get along fairly well with each other, and I think the racing is a heck of a lot of fun, so I’m looking forward to getting back out there.
RBRA: Time for a teaser reminisce! What did you think of it and will you be donning a J-Dub style mullet any time soon?
CS: It was great, really funny, but no, no way! Definitely not!
RBRA: So tell us, what’s it really like working with Casey? (Give us the gossip – we won’t tell, promise!)
John Russell: It’s very interesting. It’s a refreshing change to work with someone who has obviously had experience and success on two wheels and he really has immense maturity for what he’s done at his age. So it’s good fun.
RBRA: He’s obviously at the start of his career on four wheels. How does he compare to other drivers that you’ve seen at this stage and then come up through the categories?
JR: He’s clearly very capable instinctively. He very much understands about how important the tyre is and about how important keeping the load on the contact patch is, so that’s not a difficult story to sell to him. It’s just a matter of us working out between us how he can manage his car by changing the settings, rather than moving his body weight around as he would do on a motorcycle.
RBRA: Coming into Clipsal, Casey’s first four-wheeled race, what were your expectations?
JR: He’s a very competitive individual so internally I’m sure he’s setting himself quite high sights for the whole season, but we have to be realistic. Clipsal’s a very difficult place and so different from testing in the open. My feeling was that he’d come out and do a good job because he’s that sort of guy – and he certainly did. The second race was a great showcase of his talent.
RBRA: Are you at all thinking that he could be a championship contender?
JR: I think he and I would both be disappointed if, once we get into the thick of it, we’re not racing for the front, but I think that because the championship’s only seven rounds there will be a learning process. So the question is can you do enough in those first three races to put yourself in the right position for the end? But if you look at what Scott [Pye] achieved last year, anything’s possible.