Casey Stoner is worried a severe chatter issue with his factory Honda RC213V machine will hinder his hopes of securing a podium finish in his final appearance at the Sepang track in Malaysia tomorrow.
The reigning world champion, who has been struck by chatter throughout his final premier class campaign, had major tyre vibration issues that left him fourth on the grid for tomorrow’s 20-lap race.
The Aussie set a best pace of 2.01.811 to finish just 0.477s behind world championship leader Jorge Lorenzo, who stormed to his seventh pole position of the season with a brilliant late burst of speed.
But Stoner, who was fifth in his comeback from a serious ankle injury in Japan last weekend, said: “If other riders are complaining about chatter then we have it ten times worse. The chatter is just unbelievable. We can't fix it and every direction we go seems to make it worse. I'm disappointed because our potential is a lot higher than I showed today but we couldn't get through the chatter issues. We had brake problems this morning when we could have maybe made some steps forward and we didn't have time to make the right steps this afternoon."
Stoner said it was hard to understand what was triggering the chatter issue and he added: “I'm not sure what the issue is, whether it is temperature or grip levels or long corners with a lot of weight on the front for a long time. Everyone is having chatter, so it must be something to do a little with the surface. Nobody else has been able to fix it here, so we certainly won't be able to."
Stoner said it had been frustrating that the chatter issue had followed Honda all season and HRC had not been able dial it out despite rolling out various new parts.
The issue stems from a range of new generation softer front and rear tyres introduced by Bridgestone on safety grounds for 2012.
Yamaha and Ducati have had much less issues with the new spec tyres and Stoner said: “There is not one track where I haven't had chatter this year. When I first tested this bike last year it was probably the best bike I've ever ridden and now riding it for the rest of this season it is one of the most difficult and one of the worst bikes I've ridden in my career. Unfortunately here we have huge amounts of chatter on the left going into the corners, and there are a lot of fast entries on the left here. We are having huge issues with that. And it is all because of tyres. It is very frustrating to finish my career riding with these sort of issues. We didn't have these front tyres earlier in the season and they have given us a lot more front chatter. We still had huge amounts of rear chatter and a bit of front chatter and now it is just that much worse. We've had front chatter this season but nothing close to this. On my last exit today it was probably the worst chatter I've ever had. I was literally leaning on my elbow trying to pick the bike up it was so bad.”