First match point for Stoner at Phillip Island
For the first time this season the 2011 MotoGP crown could be settled this weekend, if current leader Casey Stoner scores ten points or more than defending World Champion Jorge Lorenzo.
It is the Repsol Honda rider’s first opportunity at sealing this year’s Championship and comes at his home event, the Iveco Australian Grand Prix, but in Thursday’s official press conference ahead of Round 16 Stoner was focused solely on taking victory at Phillip Island for a fifth consecutive year.
“My chances of the Championship this weekend I think are very slim, almost none. For Jorge to finish fourth or worse, and then I have to try and win the race…” said Stoner, who turns 26 on race day on Sunday. “For me the most important thing is to actually win the race. It’s a race I want to win. I wanted to win last weekend in Japan as well but wasn’t able to, so I’ll try to bounce back here.”
Stoner continued: “It’s a Grand Prix I always look forward to coming back to. It’ll be our first time here on the Honda and we’ll see how we do. The last four years we’ve been very successful (with Ducati)… I think the bike can be working really well around here so hopefully we can put the package together and everything can go well.”
Yamaha Factory Racing rider Lorenzo, a double 250cc race winner at Phillip Island but yet to score a premier class victory here, remains defiant to the end as he tries to hold onto his title.
“Of course we will fight to the end to try and avoid Casey taking the title for as long as possible!” he said. “It means we have to fight for the win every weekend which will be tough, this year has been tougher than ever, but we’ll try.”
The Spaniard took his first premier class podium here last season when he finished second, by which time he had already claimed the 2010 title, and it is a track he enjoys.
“It’s a lovely track. When I first came here in 2002 I found it very strange… It’s so difficult, and so special,” he said. “It’s very different from other tracks around the world, but every year I have grown to love it a little more and now it’s one of my favourites.”
Stoner’s team-mate Dani Pedrosa was also present, and at just a single point behind fellow Repsol Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso in the standings a real battle between the pair is now on for third in the Championship.
“In the last few races we have gotten closer in the points, but there are still three races to go. He is riding very well, so it’s going to be hard and interesting but we will try to do the best we can in the final three races,” said Pedrosa, who is another advocate of the spectacular Phillip Island track.
“For racing it’s spectacular with very high speeds,” he enthused. “Obviously it’s always cold here but when you’re racing and sliding the rear wheel it’s a great feeling. It’s good to be here and hopefully we’ll have a good race.”
Ducati Team rider Nicky Hayden and San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Marco Simoncelli are separated by just four points in the standings in seventh and eighth positions respectively, and the duo are both targeting a strong weekend.
“Phillip Island traditionally has been a really good track for our bike, it’s never been off the podium I think somebody said… That’s going to be a little bit tougher this year, but we’ll see what happens,” said Hayden, who just missed out on a rostrum finish last year.
“It’s a track that when you’re comfortable, you can be really fast. You have to be brave and you need guts, especially at Turn 3. It’s tougher with the wind, which around here can be really nasty. Hopefully we get some decent weather.”
The American also commented on the amount of work his team and factory had put into the Desmosedici this year, adding: “We’ve obviously tried a lot of options, probably too many and maybe got a bit confused, but it’s just because we want to do well and get to the front. I don’t think Ducati has got the credit it deserves for how hard it has worked, and how hard it has tried to give me, Valentino and the rest of the Ducati riders the best opportunity to get results. Now we have three more chances this season before the introduction of the 1000cc bikes next year.”
Simoncelli, who twice won in the 250s here and who finished sixth on his premier class debut ride at Phillip Island last year, is targeting a second podium finish of 2011.
“I have a lot of good memories here at Phillip Island where I’ve won twice in the 250s and last year I didn’t have such a bad weekend. I hope to do better this year and I hope to fight for the podium on Sunday,” he stated.
The Italian also got his first taste of the forthcoming 1000cc prototypes when he tested Honda’s developing machine at Motegi following the previous round.
“It was a very good experience for me, I never tested it before,” was his reaction. “It’s really powerful. The main problem was the wheelie which was difficult to manage. It was a good test for me, I gave my impressions to HRC and I hope that can be helpful in the development of the bike.”
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