“Do you want a rival that cleans you out?” - Stoner on how to win the mind games

Two-time MotoGP champion Casey Stoner believes riders that try to get in the head of their opponent are instead showing weakness.
Casey Stoner, Ducati MotoGP Estoril 2007
Casey Stoner, Ducati MotoGP Estoril 2007

Stoner was never one for getting into heated exchanges, or playing mind games off the track.

Instead, the Australian did a lot of his talking on the track with dominant performances, for both Ducati and Honda. 

But two of the biggest names the sport has ever had - Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi - were able to ‘play the game’ better than most.

Marquez still uses tricks against his opponents, which was again on display in Sepang when he and Franco Morbidelli squabbled for track position during qualifying. 

Riders on slower bikes have always looked for a faster rider to latch onto, so seeing the likes of Marquez do that is of no surprise.

But it’s the mind games and visible disruption that it can cause which highlights where and what they’re thinking. 

Stoner, who still sees riders trying to get in the heads of their rivals although not as much as before, believes it ‘uncovers a lot of their weaknesses’. 

Speaking to TNT sports about current rivalries compared to legendary ones of the past, Stoner said: “It’s there. It’s just under a veil. You’ve got to look for it. It’s there! I understand everyone at home wants to see the nitty gritty. Some competitors like that, they think it’s how you get into people’s mind-sets. 

“But in my opinion, all you do by trying to get into someone’s head and doing it in the wrong way? You just make them stronger. 

“Everyone that has ever done it to me? You learn from everything they do. The reason they do everything. It uncovers a lot of their weaknesses. You can tell when they’re trying to compensate for certain things when they’re trying to intimidate you. 

“As long as you learn from it all, it makes you stronger to the point where they cannot intimidate you. If you’re out there, racing with a mate, and you are friends with them, they won’t go quite as hard. They won’t send it up the inside. If you show your rivals respect, they won’t send it as hard. 

“When it comes to a championship, do you really want a rival who will try to clean you out? Or do you want to get this job done on merit? 

“There is a lot of respect between the riders at the moment because they all know that they’re struggling with certain things. Why risk all of that by making enemies who could clean you out, at any moment?”

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