MotoGP Phillip Island test: Casey Stoner rampant on home track

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MotoGP world champion Casey Stoner produced another ominously fast performance on his home track today to set the best time on race tyres in Phillip Island.

While Colin Edwards claimed the fastest time using a Michelin qualifying tyre, Stoner was untouchable in race trim as he posted a best of 1.30.178 on the new factory Ducati GP8.

That was 0.2s inside Marco Melandri’s 990cc lap record as the 22-year-old was 0.5s faster than any of rivals on race tyres.

Surprise package was second placed premier class rookie Alex de Angelis, who logged a best of 1.30.668.

But it was Stoner who stole the show, reeling off an impressive 28 laps in the 1.30 bracket. Only five other riders got into the 1.30s on race tyres, but none could get close to Stoner, who spent most of the opening day evaluating new Bridgestone tyres.

Stoner, who was recently honoured with the prestigious Young Australian of the Year award, said: “Today has gone very well. I started off with a good feeling on the bike using the tyres that had given us such positive results in Sepang last week.

“One of the new Bridgestone tyres was very good today with improved drive coming off the corners, especially the final, fast left-hand turn. We also made some front-end set-up changes, which produced a big improvement because I was able to do 17 laps on a race tyre and my fastest lap, so I think we can be very happy, as I wasn’t riding near the limit.

“The changes have made the bike more stable, with a little more traction so everything is going in the right direction,” said Stoner, making his first track appearance on home soil since he dominated the Australian GP last October.

He was also happy with Ducati’s new V4 motor, designed for better bottom end performance, which helped him register the fastest race tyre lap time last week in Malaysia.

He added: “The latest engine is really working well here, I feel it coming onto the main straight with the bike still wanting to accelerate off the turn hard and I’ve been able to do some fast times on race tyres compared to everyone else. Conditions today were very good, the wind was only strong in the afternoon but with the smaller fairing that I used in the race here last October there were no problems with the wind.”

Stoner was also happy to report a further improvement in the condition of his left shoulder, which was severely weakened in a crash at Jerez last November.

“My shoulder still gets a little sore and this is a very physical track, a lot of very fast corners, but the injury is better than it was in Malaysia last week and even though I got a little tired I did 73 laps today, ” said the 2007 world champion.

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt