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Stoner: "It’ll be interesting to see who goes for victory in Qatar"

Stoner: 'It’ll be interesting to see who goes for victory in Qatar'

The Repsol Honda rider is looking forward to starting his first official competition with his 2011 RC212V.

Casey Stoner returned home satisfied with the results obtained in the Sepang Test. After some days of rest, and already thinking about the approaching start of the Grand Prix season, the Australian rider is optimistic about the final pre-season Test in Qatar before the start of the MotoGP World Championship.

Casey, what you did in Malaysia – the last day of the Test – was simply amazing…

“Well, the day before, when we finished the job, we were aware that the next day in the morning we would be able to set a time under two minutes. In Sepang the track is usually at its best in the morning, but I do not usually feel at 100% in the first laps, I prefer to set my fastest time at the end of the day. We decided to use the soft tyres and try to be the first in setting a time under two minutes. To be honest I did not think that only one other rider would set a time like this, as the track was in optimal conditions. We must be happy about the job we did there, it was very good.”

Qatar is a special race for you and you have won it on several occasions. How do you feel about the start of this new season?

“I am very excited, because we spent many days training, but that is not the ideal situation, as during the pre-season we don’t have a wide variety of circuits. Nevertheless, the races are finally approaching and I am looking forward to seeing how we perform with this team, how I work with the bike on the circuit and, above all, what the general level for everyone is. I am sure there will be riders more confident than others, so it will be interesting to see who goes for victory in the first race.”

Your team-mate Dani and you showed great strength during this pre-season. Do you think this year everyone will be faster than ever?

“I think so, I have seen many riders that are taking more risks and they are pushing a lot more. There is more competitiveness because they think victory is possible, they feel they are closer to the podium and that motivates them to take more risks than before. I think we will see very exciting races this year.”

Do you think the Honda is a step ahead of its rivals?

“It is difficult to say. Naturally, we are happy with the path Honda has taken and everything they have done for us from our first Test in Valencia to now, because they have made good progress. Both Dani [Pedrosa] and I are pushing a little more than the others, but until we get to the race it is difficult to know where we really are. At this moment we are happy with what Honda is giving us, we just need to be sure that everything will work at the races.”

Where are you with the clutch, the engine braking and the rebound problems you talked about during the Tests?

“It is difficult to know if the problem comes from the clutch or the electronic control. The bike rebounds a lot when entering the corners and it is difficult to brake late, because the bike is a bit unstable. It is something on which we have worked a lot, especially during the two last sessions. We have improved a bit on that, but it is not enough yet, we have to dedicate more time to it to be at 100%. About the suspension, at the moment we are using last year’s standard. We also have a modified 2011 fork that we tested once, but we had some problems and we did not feel fully comfortable. We decided to wait until we are sure about what we want from the bike before asking about the forks; we need more time to decide what we want.”

Do you think we will see the same four riders on top this year or are there going to be changes?

“I expect some surprises, although I did the same last year and there were the same four riders winning races and getting on the podiums. I am certain Dani [Pedrosa] and Jorge [Lorenzo] will be in front, but Andrea [Dovizioso] is quickly improving and also Simoncelli and Ben Spies can increase the list. Valentino might be ready for the first race, but we might have to wait a little. But I am sure that there might be some unexpected riders that will make an effort to be in front.”

Repsol Media Service press release

MotoGP, 2011, Casey Stoner, Repsol Honda Team

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