Ducati Marlboro’s Casey Stoner is the prohibitive favorite to win this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island, despite crashing on the first lap of last weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang.Prior to Sepang, Stoner had turned his season around by winning, first in Aragon, Spain, then two weeks later in Motegi, Japan.The Australian race is the third of the Australasian flyaways and Stoner’s home race. The 2007 World Champion arrives home on a three race winning streak at Phillip Island, all aboard the Ducati Marlboro Desmosedici GP10 which he’ll forsake for a Honda RC212V next year.The big question is whether Stoner and his team can get a handle on the front end problems that have sent him to the ground more times this year, including in Sepang, than at any time in his MotoGP career.”I’m looking forward to going back to Phillip Island- we have had decent results there for the past three years and with the way the bike is working now we can expect to be competitive,” he said. “After last weekend in Malaysia we go there feeling a little disappointed, but we will do our best to improve our situation and hopefully fight for another victory. I am sure it will be a close race there. “It is one of my favorite circuits, but that’s the same for a lot of riders and as always I imagine it will be a fun race to watch.”Teammate Nicky Hayden always goes well in Malaysia and wants to put last week’s race behind him. Hayden had a stunning lap in qualifying that nearly earned him the pole, but didn’t have the pace to stick with the leaders in the race. He was embroiled in a four-way battle for sixth, which he easily won over three Honda riders. Though he’s never won at Phillip Island, Hayden has challenged for the lead, has three podium appearances, and two pole positions.”Phillip Island is definitely one of the highlights of the season,” he said. “I think all the riders love the country and especially the circuit and I am no exception. I have had some good results there in the past, a few podiums and pole positions. The weather is usually pretty unpredictable, with low temperatures and very different conditions to Malaysia, but the track itself is awesome, one of the best on the whole calendar, so we’re looking forward to it and we’ll see what we can do. This track works the tires really hard so we’ll need to find a set-up that helps deal with that and make sure they last the whole race. You spend a lot of time at full lean and you need to have good traction.”
Stoner Goes Home
Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor
Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.