The talent of Casey Stoner lifted the performance of Honda’s factory RC212V machine to a new level in 2011, according to Jorge Lorenzo’s Yamaha boss Wilco Zeelenberg.
Zeelenberg reckons Honda’s 2011 bike changed very little from the RC212V that ended the 2010 campaign but it was the Australian’s skill and raw speed that made the HRC contender the dominant force last season.
Stoner won his second premier class world title with 10 race wins and frequently outclassed Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso, who were riding identical machinery.
In a recent interview with MCN, Spaniard Lorenzo explained the three main reasons he felt had contributed to him surrendering his world title in 2011.
He said: "The first one is that Honda made a big step at the end of last season (2010) and this year they have this new gearbox system, which makes them very competitive. Then Honda took Casey and I can't say anything new that I have not said about him. He is very talented and he can ride the bike to the limit in every situation.
"Casey's presence made all the other Honda riders stronger because the limit they must reach is now higher. There is more pressure so they get faster. Yamaha made a big effort to improve the bike but we couldn't improve so much, so these three things makes us a little bit slower with less options to win races."
Zeelenberg though believes Stoner’s impact at HRC was pivotal and he told MCN: "The big change was that Casey on the Honda took it to another level. We knew the Honda had made a step last August in Brno because Jorge even then was saying ‘mayday, mayday’ and urging Yamaha to make a step. To make that step we have our own philosophy and you can’t change too much otherwise you’re jumping in the same boat as Ducati. We didn’t want to jump in that boat so it looks simple that we didn’t do enough work.
"But that is not the case. The bike was still capable of fighting for the championship but sure the Honda was strong this year with Casey. For me at the moment the two guys that are a step up from everybody are Casey and Jorge. Dani sometimes is spectacularly fast but the two guys for me in MotoGP are Casey and Jorge. That’s quite clear and with the difference in our bikes, Jorge is able to beat the rest."