A 14th-place finish at the 2009 British Grand Prix meant it was time. Time for Casey Stoner to take a break.
The Australian announced he would be skipping three races from the MotoGP™ calendar in a bid to cure health problems, initially thought to be a virus that was producing fatigue-like symptoms.
The plan was for an out-of-sorts Stoner to return in Portugal and try and find some form ahead of the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix.
Stoner, of course, had history at Phillip Island, winning races in both 2007 and 2008, but his bid for a hat-trick now seemed incredibly unlikely.
Stoner finished second at Estoril but was more than six seconds behind race winner Jorge Lorenzo, leading to serious doubts about his ability to triumph on home soil.
We should have known better, though, Stoner edging championship leader Valentino Rossi for pole.
And he led the field throughout a thrilling encounter, despite Rossi’s best efforts.
The man affectionately known as ‘The Doctor’ continued to stalk Stoner but the local always had the answer, with one particularly ambitious overtake seeing Rossi run wide.
Stoner ended up winning by 1.935 seconds, Dani Pedrosa more than 20 seconds behind in third.
“I’d forgotten how good that winning feeling is and of all my victories, this is perhaps the most special,” an elated Stoner said afterwards.
“This has been a really tough season for us. I think without taking that time off, we wouldn’t be anywhere near the podium today.
“Things would’ve been too difficult for me and physically I wouldn’t have been able to last the race.
“To have enough pace to win it – it’s just fantastic. I can’t ask for more. We definitely made the right decision to take that time off.”
Stoner’s mystery illness was later diagnosed as lactose intolerance, with his three-race absence seeing him off the pace in the battle for the world title.
Rossi, who left Australia with a 38-point lead at the top of the standings, ending up winning the championship – his seventh in the premier class – with 306 points.
That saw him comfortably ahead of Lorenzo (261), Pedrosa (234) and Stoner (220).
It was to be Rossi’s last world title as an era of Spanish dominance loomed.