MotoGP Sepang test: Casey Stoner rues clutch problem in Sepang

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A clutch problem cost Casey Stoner the chance to complete his first race simulation on Ducati's new 2008 GP8 machine in Sepang today, but the MotoGP world champion still logged some impressive times on the second day.

The Aussie was fifth quickest today as he completed just 34 laps, which was two less than he managed on a problematic first day when Stoner was dogged by electronic glitches.

Stoner's best time of 2.01.638 came on only his eighth lap, and shortly before 3pm he took to the track to try and complete a full 21-lap race simulation.

He was only ten laps into the distance run when he began to suffer slipper clutch problems, and fearful of crashing and potentially aggravating a lingering right shoulder injury first suffered in Jerez last November, Stoner pitted.

His mechanics needed just over 30 minutes to solve the problem, and Stoner completed a further five fast laps, but fell short of completing the full distance because of arm cramp problems.

Stoner posted a best time of 2.01.743 in the simulation and the 22-year-old said: "In the middle of the simulation I had a small problem with the clutch and had to come in and start again. I had to stop about four laps short of race distance because I'd cooled down a bit and my arm started to get a bit of cramping in it.

"The slipper clutch wasn't working and it was like a moto cross bike going into a couple of corners and making me lose the front. It was better to come in and there was a problem with it, they fixed it. I was getting faster every lap and feeling more comfortable so that's positive."

Stoner spent the bulk of his day testing new front tyres, but was happy with engine modifications that he believes will bolster his bid to repeat his stunning 2007 campaign, where he cruised to the title with 10 wins.

"We have found something in the engine. Bottom power is a lot smoother and the bike is easier to ride. I've got more acceleration and more torque and I can find a lot more traction a lot easier. Last year it was a little bit difficulty sometimes. It's early stages yet but we can continue from that, " said Stoner, who again easily outpaced new team-mate Marco Melandri.

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt