That's right, after denying the rumor as recently as two weeks ago in Estoril, current MotoGP #1 plate holder, likely current-season champion, and fastest motorcycle rider on the planet Casey Stoner has announced that he is retiring after this season, at the ripe old age of 26!
Why is he doing this? The possibilities are numerous....
It's possible that the arm-pump problems Casey has been having are worse than he's let on, and he wants to preserve his health rather than undergo surgery that is likely only a temporary solution.
Maybe his wife and new daughter have caused him to deeply consider the wisdom/appeal of continuing to risk his life on the track (a fact we were all brutally reminded of by Marco Simoncelli's accident last year at Sepang), when he's already achieved the pinnacle of the sport.
He may simply feel (know?) that MotoGP is moving away from being a prototype-based series (see the recent introduction of CRT teams, and ominous comments by series organizer Dorna), and not be excited by or interested in racing "ordinary" machines.
Or he could have grown tired of the more wearisome aspects of his job - the media circus, the constant travel, the scrutiny and feeling of needing to continually prove himself, the endless comparisons to other riders.
Perhaps, instead, in a sport defined largely by risk management, Casey feels that he has played the odds and won, and wants to go out on top. He's achieved his personal goals, and choosing to leave while he is still almost undoubtedly the fastest rider on the grid would cement a very impressive legacy.
Likely of course his motivation is a combination of some or all of the above. His retirement will mean an unexpected open seat at the factory Repsol Honda team, which is likely to drastically shake up the current "silly season" and its ongoing contract negotiations.
More importantly though (in my mind at least) Casey's retirement will leave a major question mark, an unsettled score. While certainly heading in that direction, Casey's record alone does not yet warrant a mention of his name in that timeless conversation, the classic barroom debate, "who is the greatest rider of all time?"
EXCEPT for one thing, which is no small matter and hinges (as do so many things in this sport) on Valentino Rossi, the most obvious holder of the G.O.A.T. title. The fact remains that in taming the notorious Ducati and winning not only races but a championship on it, Casey did something that Valentino has not.
If Casey retires before Vale sorts out the Duc or moves to a more competitive bike, and the two never meet head-to-head in another series (SBK with Biaggi and coaxed-out-of-retirement Bayliss? - now THAT would be fun) the question will forever remain unanswered:
On equally competitive machines, who is faster? Who is the true King?
Better start building your argument now, 'cause this is likely to be a debate for the ages......