Sweltering Sepang welcomes 2011 Champion Stoner

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The penultimate round of the season takes place this weekend as Casey Stoner arrives at the Shell Advance Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix as the newly crowned 2011 MotoGP World Champion.

After a dream weekend at his home race at Phillip Island in which a ninth victory of the year sealed him the 2011 title, MotoGP World Champion Casey Stoner arrives at the Sepang International Circuit for Round 17 of the season satisfied that his first campaign with the Repsol Honda team has been a resounding success.

The Australian is set to make his 100th premier class GP start this weekend, and despite having secured his second MotoGP title with two rounds remaining will be just as hungry to continue his phenomenal form in 2011. On the podium at every round except one this year (Round 2 at Jerez), Stoner has not been off the rostrum for the last 14 races and will be out to deliver Honda their first win of the 800cc era at Sepang – a track at which the 26 year-old himself has won in the 125cc, 250cc and premier classes.

Jorge Lorenzo was a notable absentee from the starting grid in Australia and the deposed World Champion will also miss this weekend’s race as well. A nasty finger injury picked up in a Sunday morning warm-up crash at Phillip Island ruled the Yamaha Factory Racing rider out of the race, and following surgery he will not be able to compete in Malaysia either.

Lorenzo’s position as runner-up looks to be almost secured despite his inability to ride, although third-placed Andrea Dovizioso could still mathematically beat him to second in the final standings. The Italian finished on the podium in Australia as he pushes hard in his final races with Repsol Honda before a switch of teams in 2012, and he remains four points ahead of team-mate Dani Pedrosa in the duo’s battle for positions in the factory outfit’s pecking order.

Yamaha’s Ben Spies missed last Sunday’s race in Australia after taking a heavy blow to the head in a crash in qualifying, but expects to be fit to ride at a track on which he finished fourth in his rookie season last year. The American remains on course for a top-five Championship finish in his first season on the factory YZR-M1.

Thanks to his second podium of the year in Australia, San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Marco Simoncelli drew level on points with Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team) in the Championship and is still well able to challenge Spies for fifth. For Rossi the Phillip Island weekend could not have finished in more disappointing fashion as the Italian crashed out for a second successive race, as his woes on the Desmosedici continued. The nine times World Champion has taken nine podiums from his 11 previous premier class visits to Sepang, and his last MotoGP victory came in last year’s Malaysian GP.

On the other side of the Ducati Team garage Nicky Hayden continues his search for a second podium of the season at a track he is yet to step onto the rostrum, but where he has finished in fourth position on five previous occasions. A solid top-five ride in Australia will have boosted Colin Edwards on the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 as the American sees out his final two races with Hervé Poncharal’s team before a switch next season, and Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini) appears set to achieve a top-ten finish this season after it was announced in Australia that the Japanese rider will bid farewell for now to the MotoGP World Championship at the conclusion of the campaign.

Mapfre Aspar rider Héctor Barberá is working hard to be fit to ride in Malaysia following surgery on the fractured collarbone he suffered in Japan just over two weeks ago, and John Hopkins will accompany Álvaro Bautista on the Rizla Suzuki GSV-R as a wildcard at the circuit where the Spaniard scored his equal best premier class result of fifth last year.

TAGS Malaysia

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