Casey Stoner in Jerez, Spain Gold & Goose/Red Bull Media House North America, Inc.

Casey Stoner informed a stunned press room at the Le Mans circuit on Thursday that he would be retiring from the sport at the end of the 2012 season. 

Rumors that the two-time World Champion would leave MotoGP at the end of the current campaign had surfaced earlier in the season but were initially denied by Stoner, who said he had no plans for retirement in the immediate future.

The 26-year-old had never made any secret of the fact that he would call time on his motorcycling career sooner rather than later, but his announcement at the start of the press conference on Thursday in which he confirmed that he would not race in 2013 came as something of a surprise to all.

"I don't have the passion for it and so at this time it's better if I retire now." –Casey Stoner

“After a long time thinking, a lot of time talking with my family and my wife, this has been coming for a couple of years now but at the end of this 2012 season I will be not racing in the 2013 Championship. I will be finishing my career at the end of this season in MotoGP, and go forward in different things in my life,” Stoner stated.

“After so many years of doing this sport which I love, and which myself and my family made so many sacrifices for, after so many years of trying to get to where we have gotten to at this point, this sport has changed a lot and it has changed to the point where I am not enjoying it. I don't have the passion for it and so at this time it's better if I retire now.

nullGold & Goose/Red Bull Media House North America, Inc.

“There are a lot of things that have disappointed me, and also a lot of things I have loved about this sport, but unfortunately the balance has gone in the wrong direction. And so, basically, we won't be continuing any more. It would be nice if I could say I would stay one more year, but then where does it stop? So we decided to finish everything as we are now.”

Jorge Lorenzo, from whom Stoner took the title last year, admitted his shock at the Australian's announcement.

“It’s a surprise for me, for everyone. I didn’t expect it,” said the Spaniard (pictured above behind Stoner). “I heard the rumors and I thought there was a possibility, but I thought he would continue next year. Now he has told us, it’s not good news for MotoGP I think, but his decision is to live quietly with his family and we must respect his decision.”

"We’re losing one of the great riders and a great rival." –Valentino Rossi

Valentino Rossi, with whom Stoner has experienced a strained relationship due to the pair's increasingly intense rivalry, was also taken aback by the news.

“Yes, it’s a big surprise,” said the Italian. “I think it’s bad news for all the MotoGP world because at the end of the season maybe we’re losing one of the great riders and a great rival. It is negative [for the sport], but it’s his own decision.”

Red Bull athlete Stoner, who won the 2007 title with Ducati and the 2011 crown with Honda, will now aim to sign off from his seventh season at the top level of the sport with a third title. He currently heads the MotoGP standings by a single point ahead of 2010 Champion Lorenzo, and won at the Le Mans track last year on his way to the title.

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