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Stoner relishing home fight

Stoner relishing home fight

Stoner relishing home fight

Local hero Casey Stoner will celebrate his 20th birthday at Phillip Island on Sunday and will be hoping for a special present from the podium dignitaries as he aims to close defending Champion Dani Pedrosa's 26-point championship advantage.

"At the moment I'm still taking it race by race but my target is to take the championship down to the final round," said Stoner. "Then, whatever happens in Valencia, I'll be satisfied that I have done everything I can. This weekend is obviously very big for me but I'm definitely not racing to finish second."

After taking back-to-back victories at the last two Grand Prix races, Stoner has dramatically reduced the deficit to Pedrosa, making himself a serious contender to take the 250cc world title. His efforts are reviving the success that Australian riders had in the class in the sixties and seventies which included a World Championship title for Kel Carruthers in 1969 riding a Benelli - the last time the 250cc title was won by a rider on a four-stroke machine.

Stoner has already set a number of new records and milestones with his achievements this year:

- His debut victory in the 250cc class in Portugal made him the youngest Australian rider ever to win a 250cc Grand Prix, to add to his record of being the youngest Australian to win in the 125cc class.

- At the Chinese GP Stoner became the first Australian rider to start from pole in a 250cc GP since Greg Hansford at the French GP in 1979 riding a Kawasaki.

- Stoner became the third youngest rider ever to start from pole in the 250cc class after Marco Melandri and Dani Pedrosa.

- Earlier this year at the Portuguese and Chinese GP's, Stoner became the first Australian rider to take back-to-back wins in the 250cc class since Greg Hansford won the Spanish GP at Jarama and the French GP at Nogaro in 1978 riding a Kawasaki.

- Australian riders have taken 20 victories in total in the 250cc class with six different riders: Kel Carruthers – 7 wins, Greg Hansford – 4 wins, Casey Stoner – 4 wins, John Dodds – 2 wins, Tom Phillis – 2 wins, Anthony West – 1 win.

- Stoner is the second youngest rider (after Dani Pedrosa) to take back-to-back victories in the 250cc class.

- His victory in Qatar was Stoner's eighth podium of the year, equalling the number of podiums achieved this year by Pedrosa.

- Casey Stoner's victory in Qatar made Australia the eighth most successful nation in the 250cc class with a total of twenty wins.

250cc, 2005, POLINI AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX, Casey Stoner

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