Casey Stoner was thrilled after he made a dream start in his quest to win a sixth successive home race at Phillip Island today.
The 27-year-old defied a lack of strength and mobility in the right ankle he first injured in Indianapolis to finish almost 0.9s ahead of Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa.
Stoner, who is making his final Phillip Island appearance before he retires next month, set a best time of 1.29.999 and he said that he was thrilled to have started off his home race weekend in such stunning form but surprised the chasing pack had not been closer.
The double MotoGP world champion said: “I saw everybody going on new soft tyres and I was expecting them to really close gap or get in front of me because there is a huge difference between a new tyre and old. But I was considerably faster than them with close to race distance on the tyre because if we had put on a soft we could have gone a big step faster. So this was very positive. I never have expectations but to get into the 29s on the first day, I'm pretty happy because I did that with the hard tyre. Nobody else was running the hard tyre, so we found some extra pace of everybody. We still have a lot of work to do to get the harder tyre to work a little more comfortably. We found it dropping off quite quickly and this should be something that happens with the soft tyre and not the hard. We still have a lot of work to do to get this bike working a little smoother. There are a lot of bumps and it is making it difficult. Everything came to me pretty quickly. I was pretty quick to get on the pace and I didn't expect to end up with the lap times we did, but it seems the track conditions aren't so bad.”
Stoner said the fast and flowing Phillip Island track was putting less stress on his recovering ankle than it did in Japan and Malaysia.
Stoner was fifth on his return in Japan and then a battling third in a rain-lashed Sepang race and he added: “I find that I move a lot less on this track compared to Japan and Malaysia. There are lot less right corners, so there are a lot fewer issues with the ankle. There are only two corners that are giving me some hell. For the rest of the track I am a lot more comfortable than at the last two races. I am pretty happy because going into this weekend my ankle is in a lot worse condition that when I started in Japan, and it is nice to take a bit of weight off it."