Stoner absence 'very suspicious' says Gardner

"I think he probably needs to come up with some answers"

FORMER 500cc World Champion Wayne Gardner has said Casey Stoner's three-race absence from this year's MotoGP championship is 'very suspicious'.

Speaking to Australia's The Age newspaper Gardner threw some scepticism over his fellow countryman's decision to take a break from the World Championship event.

"It's very suspicious," Gardner said. "I wish there had have been some sort of answer to it, that he'd come out with some sort of answer, because there is certainly an air of mystery to it.''

Earlier this month one of Gardner's old rivals, former 500cc champion Kevin Schwantz, suggested the Australian's absence was caused by inability to cope with pressure or by friction between rider and team.

Gardner continued: "I personally haven't ever seen anyone just stop for a rest during the year in my time of grand prix racing. It's certainly an unanswered question,'' he said.

"I don't think it puts a question mark on him as a competitor but it would just be nice to know what was the reasoning for it … I think he probably needs to come up with some answers.''

The media has been rife with all sorts of rumours surrounding Stoner's absence; reports varied from "mild anaemia and slight gastritis" to an alleged rumour Stoner's wife, Adriana, was having an affair.

In conclusion Garder said:

"I don't tell him how to ride his motorbike and that's the way he does things,'' Gardner said. "But it's certainly very unusual and very unique that someone stops and has a rest for three or four races in the middle of the year and then comes back out and races and says, 'I'm better now'.''