Two-time MotoGP champion Casey Stoner has opened up on his decision to auction off one of his treasured racing suits to raise funds for communities affected by the devastating bushfires across Australia.
Stoner has become the latest in a long line of Australian athletes to help aid the recovery effort, with several motorsport identities playing their part.
Notably, MotoGP contemporary Jack Miller raised over $18,000 after he auctioned a helmet, while Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin auctioned a helmet and suit of his own for over $46,000.
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Stoner is putting up a suit which carries significant personal worth. It’s the race-winning suit worn at Aragon in 2010, his first win of what was a difficult season, and a race he turned his fortunes around – something he hopes he can help do for Australia, with all funds raised to be donated to the Australian Red Cross.
“This suit, it’s pretty special to me, because there are a few suits that I want to keep to myself, and this one was worn at the circuit I went undefeated on,” Stoner told foxsports.com.au.
“This suit in particular was worn at the end of a bad run that season, it has a bit of significance in that I’m hoping it can help Australia end its bad run, I want to do what I can to help.
“I had a rough season in 2010 and that was my first win of the season, and that was the start of things starting to look up for me again.
“It’s quite an important piece to me, and it wasn’t one I was going to give away, but through the circumstances, for the people of Australia and everything they’ve gone through the last months, it’s definitely something I want to help out with.”
Stoner said riders in particular rarely part ways with their beloved helmets and suits – himself in particular – but stressed the greater impact behind his decision, considering how the news has made an impact beyond Australia’s shores.
“I spent a few days thinking about it, to be honest,” he said regarding his decision to auction his suit.
“It’s a race-winning suit, and there wouldn’t be many riders who’d part ways with those suits, especially someone like me who kept the same suit for a long time. In 2011, my championship-winning year, I actually won seven out of 10 races wearing one suit.
“It’s not just about giving away something to raise as much as you can for everybody that’s been through hell, basically. It’s what I can impact the most with it.
“I’m in the US at the moment, and I’m shocked how many people over here know what’s happening in Australia. Media around the world aren’t just attending to it because it’s a big story, they’re really trying to create enough interest over here to get help.
“People over here in the US don’t really know a lot about Australia, but they seem to be right up to date with what’s happening with the fires and the rain we had recently.”
One of Stoner’s current connections to the land is through his property near Tamworth in rural New South Wales.
The property itself came within striking distance of fires, and Stoner described his heartache in seeing his cousin – who manages the property – and property staff having to work long hours to retain the property and also defend it from fires.
“Knowing people there and what they’ve been through … for instance, one of my cousins, who is one of my best friends and manages my property and other staff, they’ve been doing 19-hour shifts and they’re also volunteer firefighters,” he said.
“The fires got within 300 yards of the boundary line at the property, and my cousin and staff have been fighting the fires for months now.
“I know what they’re all going through, and rural Australia is where I grew up and where I call home. Seeing them already go through a tough time, especially the last four, five years through a really hard drought that we’re all going through.
“These fires on top of that, nothing could be worse. I don’t think there’s much more devastation than fires when it comes to destroying peoples’ homes and memories.”
A father of two young daughters, Stoner acknowledged how the images of destruction and devastation could intimidate younger generations with regards to a future Australia.
However, he was confident future disaster could be prevented from here considering the response not only from the general public, but from fellow athletes who have donated special relics and money to help alleviate the pain left behind by the fires.
“This isn’t something you want anyone to go through or see, but at the same time, I’m the type of person who believes young Australians need to see this to show what can happen,” he said.
“It’s so they can understand more and give more respect to the country that we want in the future. When we sit there and get complacent, it’s as though you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. It’s good for young Australians to see what is gone so we know how to look after it in the future.
“I’ve always loved how Australians get behind Australians, we’re always there to pick each other up no matter how hard the times get.
“It’s really good what athletes around the world are doing to raise awareness and how much they’re taking out of their collections to put back in towards building Australia up again and getting people back on their feet.”