Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo and rising star Cal Crutchlow have all warmly welcomed the news that the FIM (Federation Internationale Motocyclisme) has moved quickly to acknowledge what MotoGP insiders have been whispering since pre-season tests: Casey Stoner is in a league of his own.
This morning, in Mies, Switzerland, FIM President Vito Ippolito announced that beginning with the next race in Le Mans, France in two weeks' time, Stoner (Kurri Kurri, NSW, Australia) will compete by himself, in a separate race in a separate class.
Ippolito said, "Cal Crutchlow spoke for us all when he admitted that Casey is, right now, in a different league."
"After the race in Estoril, we convened a meeting of the Competition Committee, and asked members to come back with suggestions that would have the effect of improving competition at the front of the field. They made several outlines of options, including taking all the wheel weights out of Cristian Gabbarini's tool box, to make Casey's front-end chatter even worse. But our technical experts told us that while Casey complains bitterly about the chatter, it doesn't seem to slow him down. And besides, he complains about everything."
"As such, we've created a separate class for Casey, called MotoGP SuperLeague. Beginning in two weeks in France, Casey will qualify by himself and race, alone, in a 26-lap SuperLeague-class race held between the Moto2 race and the regular MotoGP event."
Reaction to this news was immediate, and mixed.
Noted MotoGP commentator David Emmett told Backmarker, "I don't care how fast Stoner is, watching him circulate by himself for 26 laps will be boring as hell."
Ex-500GP star Kevin Schwantz said, "Well, I guess they've gotta' do what they've gotta' do. Sure it's going to be boring, but it won't be that different than what fans would see if he continues to race with the rest of the MotoGP field."
Stoner, when informed of the rule, sent out this tweet to his followers: "Boring? Who cares? I'm paid to win races and titles, not entertain punters."
So far, most of the active MotoGP riders who've been reached for comment have reacted positively to the news. Dani Pedrosa said, "This only makes sense. All of us want the same thing, which is to compete on a level pitch. But Casey is too fast. It's not fair."
Only Nicky Hayden seemed to question the move, saying "I dunno, I think if the rest of us just speeded up, it would be better for the show. Right now, if I was going to create a separate league, it'd be for those dog-slow CRT bikes."
The Australian star is expected to have a mathematical lock on the SuperLeague championship by the time the series reaches the Motorland Aragon event, at which point he may begin riding more conservatively. The only thing that could prevent him from winning every race, it would seem, would be a return of his undiagnosable medical problems. (Related story: Gregory House, M.D., says, "At first I thought Stoner was lactose intolerant. But then I realized that, like me, he is just intolerant, period.")
There are still details to be worked out, such as how the Stoner-only SuperLeague will fit into the broadcast schedule, and whether Honda will pay Stoner's MotoGP championship bonus when, as it is assumed, he wins the FIM SuperLeague title instead.
Ippolito did not rule out moving other riders out of MotoGP and into the SuperLeague if they become too dominant. "Right now," he said, "Casey is in a league of his own. But now that he's out of MotoGP, if someone like Pedrosa or Lorenzo gets too dominant, and gets into a league of his own, we'll probably bump him up into the SuperLeague, too. Unless we decide to create another league, maybe we'd call it HyperLeague or something, for him by himself. I'm not sure how we'd handle it; after all, there's only so much time on the schedule for additional one-rider leagues. But we'll do whatever we have to do, to ensure that MotoGP is competitive."