PHILLIP ISLAND, AUSTRALIA, OCT 13 –
Never in the 800cc era has there been a better combination of rider and track. Australian Casey Stoner has not only won every race of the 800cc era of his home track of Phillip Island, but he’s done it from pole three times and led all but one lap. The only record he doesn’t own is the lap record, which he’s not too worried about.
Stoner flew home to Australia after finishing a disappointing third in the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi following an off-track excursion due to brake failure. Stoner explained there was no time to recover from the headshake on the back straight that sent him off at turn 11 and ruined his chances of arriving Australia with a big enough lead that the title would almost certainly be his. As it stands, he has to win and hope Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo finish no better than fourth for him to add the final 800cc title to the first one he won in 2007.
“It’s a Grand Prix I always look forward to coming back to and I think most people enjoy their home Grand Prix,” he said in the pre-race press conference on a cool, but sunny afternoon at Phillip Island. “Of course it’s a little bit more stress, a little bit more things to do. But in general we’ve always been looking forward to this circuit. Especially on the Honda this year, it’s going to be our first time here with the Honda and we’ll see how we do. But the last four years have been pretty successful. The track’s a lot of fun. It’s just something we’re going to have to wait and see with the weather, as usual.”The weather is consistently the worst of the season. Last year both the ambient and track temperature on Friday morning was 50F. The temperature climbed slightly over the course of the weekend, but it also rained, a wet, cold bone-chilling rain. The forecast for this year’s really doesn’t matter.As for his first time on his home track with the Repsol Honda RC212V, which he’s ridden to eight wins this season, “We won’t really know until we get out on the track how we feel with the bike and everything this year, but I like this track a lot and it suits me and I think the bike can be working really well around here as well, so hopefully we can put the package and everything can go well. But until we get out there on Friday and get everything started and hopefully in the dry we won’t really know.”
Stoner downplayed his championship chances, knowing he’ll have a much better chance next weekend in the Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang.”My chances of this championship this weekend is very, very slim to almost none,” he said. “For Jorge [Lorenzo] to finish fourth or worse and then I have to try to win the race. For me the most important is just to win the race. It’s a race I want to win. I wanted to win last weekend as well in Japan, but we weren’t able to, but we’ll try to bounce back here.”And, as for the lap record, currently held by Nicky Hayden from 2008, Stoner said, “I’m pretty sure I was a pretty good rabbit to him for that lap record. And he chose, obviously, a little bit too soft a tire when he did that, so it was a good reason why he got it. To be honest, no I’m not looking for the lap record. We’ve led every lap except one for the last four years here and I think that sort of says enough. This year’s going to be a completely different story I think, but the last four years have been fantastic. So, I don’t think we can really go for lap records. Tires are changing year by year and everything’s changing for us. I think it’s been obvious the last couple of years that the tires aren’t as good as we had back in 2008, I think that was. So, we’re just going to have to wait and see, really, but I think it’s going to be hard to get close to lap records.”