Estoril MotoGP: Casey Stoner faster and fitter than expected

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Casey Stoner admitted he was faster and fitter than he expected as he ended his self-imposed exile in impressive fashion in Estoril today.

Back on board his factory Ducati GP9 for the first time since a disastrous British MotoGP at Donington Park in late June, the Aussie was fourth quickest in Portugal having clocked a best time of 1.37.966. Gauging his fitness having spent the last ten weeks trying to diagnose the cause of mystery fatigue issues, the 23-year-old was only 0.781s off Jorge Lorenzo’s best time and 0.360s adrift of title favourite Valentino Rossi.

Taking to the track in front of a massed throng of photographers and TV crews outside his Marlboro Ducati garage, Stoner’s return was briefly interrupted by an early issue. “Things just didn’t feel right when I went out. We had a bit too much padding on the seat and it was pushing me too far forward and I couldn’t get tucked in.

There was no point in riding around on that when I wasn’t going to use it. I needed to change handlebar and brake positions to feel comfortable again and make it as easy as possible to ride.

 After a couple of laps though it was nice to give my arms a rest and try and spread out the workload. We just had to raise the handlebar position because it was putting too much pressure on my upper body. The brake pressure was quite a lot having not ridden for so long, “said the 2007 MotoGP world champion.

Stoner, who has won 18 MotoGP races for Ducati, was surprised at how good he felt at the end of a session in which he completed 19 laps. He added: “I felt a lot better than I thought I would after what has been a very difficult period when I’ve not been training for four or five months.

“I expected to be in a worse position physically and in fact I felt pretty damn good. Yesterday I was nervous but once I was on the bike it all felt good. It took me a few laps to get back into it again and now it feels pretty much what it was like before.” Happy to report a healthy return to the track, Stoner’s outing wasn’t completely trouble free as he struggled with an arm pump issue.

“The only drama is that I had a lot of arm pump. Not as severe as Laguna but I don’t want to push it to a point where I can’t feel my hands. But everyone gets that when they haven’t been riding for a while, “he said.

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt