Casey Stoner’s much anticipated move into V8 Supercars became official at the weekend, with the 27-year-old confirming a one-year deal to race in the second-tier Dunlop Series for category heavyweight Triple Eight.
After 13 years of racing motorcycles abroad, Stoner told Speedcafe.com’s Stefan Bartholomaeus that he’s looking forward to both a new challenge and a more relaxed lifestyle.
SPEEDCAFE: Casey, after spending so much of your life riding bikes, you must be excited to be starting this new chapter in cars.
CASEY STONER: Yeah, very much so. It’s a very exciting chapter to be honest. I’ve been riding bikes my whole life and it has been my whole life, you know. Starting something new and fresh, it’s still motorsport but it’s such a different industry. It’s something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time.
SPEEDCAFE: What’s your mindset going into the season? Are you just trying it out and having a bit of fun? Or is it the first year of a multi-year plan?
STONER: I’d love to say it’s the first year of a multi-year plan, but at the same time we are using it as a test run to see how we go and if we feel comfortable here. I don’t want to commit to anything too far into the future. At this point we are looking further but not looking too far.
SPEEDCAFE: Obviously you spent a bit of time in the Triple Eight garage at events over the last 18 months. What were your impressions of the series, the show and the team from all of that?
STONER: I’d been watching the show for a fair while through the TV coverage, which is great. The racing is always fantastic, especially for cars where it can be a little difficult to put on a good show (compared to bikes).
I think there’s a lot of professionalism within the category and it’s only going to get stronger year by year. You know, it’s a category that’s growing all the time. In my opinion it’s getting better known around the world, particularly within other areas of motorsport. I think it’ll be interesting to see where it goes from here with the Car of the Future and their other plans for progression.
SPEEDCAFE: We’ve only seen you publicly with Triple Eight, but did you explore options to drive with anyone else?
STONER: We have, yes. But at the same time I think that, from what I’ve seen and from spending time with the team, there was no other choice for me. The fact that they’re now with Red Bull makes it the perfect thing. I’ve had a very good relationship with them for a long time and it’s fantastic to be associated with them with the Triple Eight team.
SPEEDCAFE: You’ve already done a couple of tests with Triple Eight, in addition to some ride car running at Paul Morris’ driving school. How prepared do you think you’ll be by Clipsal?
STONER: Unfortunately probably not very. I have only had two runs in an actual Supercar, and only one of those was on a full track (Queensland Raceway). It was fantastic to get out there and have a full day in it to start to understand the car a little bit.
We’ve got a couple of test days planned ahead of Clipsal, but the first race, going to a street circuit and without being used to having cars around me, will be tough. But we’re doing everything we can to fast track those skills and just learn as much about the car as I can before going to the first race.
We’ve been on a simulator for a little bit as well just to try and learn the circuits so I have a rough idea of what I’m doing before I get there.
SPEEDCAFE: Do you have any goals in your head at this stage about where you want to be at Clipsal or by the end of the season?
STONER: No, to be honest. I never like to look too far ahead, just set a goal day by day and see what happens. You’re only able to achieve what you can and if you set goals too high and don’t achieve them you’re always disappointed. I think we’ll just roll with it, see how we go and just get as much time as we can in the car. Then when we’ve done the first few races we’ll have more of an idea of where we’re at and where we need to improve.
SPEEDCAFE: From the running you’ve done so far, do you think you’ll be able to get the same sort of buzz out of racing these things as you could with a motorcycle?
STONER: I’d love to say yes but I don’t think you’re ever going to get the same feeling that you can out of a bike. I think it’s the fear factor with bikes that gives it the adrenalin rush that it does. You’re not strapped in and you’re very vulnerable in a lot of ways.
The rush will certainly be very different, but it’s still going to be quite fun. You can’t ride street circuits on a bike but in a car you have quite a few of them, and I think they’ll give a heck of a rush. I’m looking forward to driving those sorts of circuits.
It’s a new challenge with the cars, something that’s completely alien to me. Getting used to four wheels instead of two and not being able to adjust my body position like I’ve been used to are big changes.
SPEEDCAFE: Naturally your new career is going to require a lot less travel than MotoGP, but there will still be a lot of media attention. Are you ready for all of that?
STONER: I’m not really sure yet. I was planning to have a year off and it didn’t really happen. It’s the real world unfortunately, you just can’t disappear.
I think the Dunlop Series is the best starting point; it’s where you really should start. I never really expected to go straight into the main game.
The fact that it’s not a full season (only seven events compared to 15 in the main championship) is also a big benefit for us this year. We’ll have as much fun as we can, try and enjoy ourselves as much as we can and keep learning along the way.
SPEEDCAFE: So with that in mind, do you see yourself running any events outside of the Dunlop Series to get more miles on four-wheels?
STONER: I’m not too sure at this point. Like I said, we’re trying to minimise our running and trying not to make our weekends too busy this year. We’re going to focus on the Dunlop Series and see how it goes. If we find we’ve got some time you never know what could pop up.