Casey Stoner signs off in ominous form
Reigning world champion Casey Stoner began the defence of his crown in ominous form as he finished second fastest at the end of a gruelling three-day test session in Sepang.
The Aussie’s best time of 2.00.660 came on a soft Bridgestone qualifying tyre, but it was his best time on race rubber that would have given his rivals a clear message that the factory Ducati rider has no intention of relinquishing his premier class crown.
Stoner, winner of 10 races in a dominant 2007 campaign, posted an impressive best race tyre time of 2.00.964 on the 25th lap of a short 27-lap stint he completed on the final day.
Stoner was using a new Bridgestone rear tyre for the first time when clocking his best time, which was 1.2s faster than his 2007 lap record when he won last October’s Malaysian GP.
The 22-year-old told MCN: “ It was something new from Bridgestone. I’d done some good times on standard tyres but the pace was quite easy to sit at low 2.01s or even go into the two flats. I could have continued this but I was starting to get tired. It’s not really different to the race tyre I used last year. It moves and bucks a bit more but gives us more traction.”
And Stoner said he could not have started the year in any better fashion, particularly as he buried his previous poor testing record at Sepang.
"We couldn't have started the year better. This morning we tried some qualifying tyres on only our second run out. We set a good lap time although I think if we'd have tried them a little later, when the track was warmer, we could have broken the two-minute mark. In fact, at the end of the morning we set a 2.00.964 on race tyres, which is over a second inside the lap record we set in September.
t shows that we are working well and that both the bike and tyres are improving. I'm leaving Sepang feeling really happy - partly because my shoulder hasn't given me too many problems and partly because I feel even more competitive than last season. Now we have to focus on this season and on getting the best possible start, so I can't wait to continue testing at Phillip Island.”
Stoner is back on track next Wednesday for the start of a three-day test on home soil in Australia.