China MotoGP: Casey Stoner back on track with front row

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Reigning world champion Casey Stoner got his 2008 title defence back on track today after he claimed his first front row start of the season in Shanghai.

Ducati’s Stoner put his recent frustrations behind him to secure third on the grid for tomorrow’s 22-lap race as he finished just 0.097secs behind Bridgestone rival Valentino Rossi.

Having kicked off his title defence with a crushing victory in Qatar back in March, the Aussie has only finished 11th and sixth in Jerez and Estoril after a trouble-hit spell.

But he is confident he will be challenging for a second successive Shanghai victory and he said: “Things really haven’t gone well for us these last two races, not only were we not 100 per cent on the pace, but everything just looked a lot worse because of the faults that sort of happened during those races.

“So we’ll be hoping, expecting a little bit better result from tomorrow. We’ve been sort of quick from the beginning but I still feel like we need to improve a little bit more. I think when the race comes around my attitude will change and we’ll get the race pace on.

“You know, the team’s been working hard, they’ve never given up, we’ve been having some troubles, but they just keep working forward. They never get a down attitude about anything.

“And we’re all working together to get the best possible set-up from this bike. I think we’re looking for sure the best out of these last three races going into tomorrow’s race.”

Casey Stoner said he had rediscovered some of his confidence with the Ducati GP8 machine, and admitted he had started to enjoy riding again after his surprise slump in form.

“It has felt much easier. These last two races I’ve really been riding hard and nothing seemed to have come of it for me. And here we can ride hard and get some reasonable lap times.

“I’m still not where I want to be but we’re at a reasonable pace and I think for the end of the race tomorrow we should be more comfortable.”

With heavy rain forecast for tomorrow’s clash, Stoner said the intervention of the weather would play a pivotal role.

“I think that anybody that’s racing these bikes wants it to stay dry. The first year we came here the track was unbelievable in the wet with so much grip.

“But since then the track surface seems to have got a little bit more slippery and that makes things a lot more difficult, especially if you go straight into the race without testing in the wet. So hopefully, we’ll have a dry race and we can have some battles up front.”

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt