Stoner says celebration may have to wait
Casey Stoner has won his home Grand Prix for the last four years, three of them from pole position, and with a 40-point lead in this year’s championship, the Australian could be celebrating a second world title on Sunday, his 26th birthday. But the Honda rider isn’t planning a double celebration just yet.
Should Stoner win Sunday’s 27-lap Iveco Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix, reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo would need to finish off the podium for the Australian to secure the crown with two races left. The Spaniard’s consistency – he has been on the podium 10 times in 2011 – has Stoner thinking his coronation might have to wait.
“My chance of a championship this weekend is very, very slim to almost none,” Stoner said at the pre-event press conference on Thursday. “The most important thing for me is to try to win the race. It’s a race I want to win. I wanted to win (in the last race) as well in Japan but I wasn’t able to, so we’ll try to bounce back here.”
Yamaha’s Lorenzo led the championship after round five at Catalunya, but has trailed Stoner since the British Grand Prix in round six after crashing at a sodden Silverstone in June, his sole non-finish for the season. Lorenzo reduced Stoner’s championship lead to 40 points after finishing second to Stoner’s teammate Dani Pedrosa in Japan a fortnight ago.
“I’m going to fight until the end to avoid Casey taking the championship, to the maximum possible,” he said. “I will try to fight for the win wherever we can, but it’s going to be tough. This year it has been tougher than ever, but let’s try.”
The Spaniard admitted it has taken some time for him to feel truly comfortable with the 4.448km Phillip Island circuit. “It’s lovely, (but) when I first came here in 2002, I felt very strange,” Lorenzo said. “It’s a very difficult track and very special, and very different from another track in the world. Every year I’ve started to love it a little bit more, and now it’s one of my favourites.”
Stoner hopes that he can continue his own love affair with the Island this weekend, but wasn’t willing to make any predictions on Thursday, particularly with the famously fickle Phillip Island weather set to affect the on-track action on Saturday and Sunday.
“Hopefully we’ll be well suited to the circuit, but we won’t know until we get out there with how we feel with the bike and everything for this year,” he said.
“I like this track a lot and it suits me, and I think the bike can be ridden very well around here as well. Hopefully we can put the package together and everything can go well, but until we get out there on Friday and get everything started, hopefully in the dry, we won’t really know.”