Sepang MotoGP: Casey Stoner uncomfortable but fast

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Casey Stoner might not have been entirely happy with the performance of his factory Ducati GP9 on the opening day of action in Malaysia today.

But the 2007 world champion was still a major threat as the penultimate race kicked off in baking hot conditions at the Sepang circuit.

Leading from most of the final third of the hour-long session, Stoner eventually finished a close second behind Jorge Lorenzo’s Fiat Yamaha.

Stoner, who triumphed for the third successive year in his home race at Phillip Island last weekend, logged a best time of 2.02.244 on his last and 17th lap to finish just 0.064s behind Lorenzo.

The 24-year-old though wasn’t 100 per cent happy with his day’s work, the Aussie running into some set-up issues with his GP9 machine as he comfortably beat Dani Pedrosa and Valentino Rossi.

Stoner said: “For some reason when I got on the bike today I was just frustrated. Nothing felt right and I didn’t feel comfortable on the bike.

“We changed a few things to make me feel a little better on it and we just went from there. But I was in a strange mood when I got on the bike today, so I definitely wasn’t happy the way things were going.

“But as the session went on we just changed it little bit by little bit and we got the bike better and better, but we still had huge issues. It was strange.

“We got the front working a lot better but we still had such a big rear grip problem.

“And although the lap times are surprisingly good, it still just didn’t feel quite good enough.

“I didn’t want to keep running around doing laps to see if we could get quicker, I wanted to come in and try to solve each problem and try to make it better.

“The last two runs we made were really nice, the bike felt a lot better and I started to feel comfortable.

“But it’s amazing with an hour session you run out of time and you don’t realise how quick these things go by.

“Most of the session we’ve been struggling a little bit with rear grip like we were in Phillip Island, maybe not as big a problem.

“So now we definitely need to improve the grip on the edge of the tyre and hopefully prevent a little bit more chattering in the front.”

Stoner was at least able to kill off any lingering doubts about his fitness with Sepang being a serious examination of his physical condition.

Stoner is only back from a 10 week illness lay-off that saw him miss three races in Brno, Indianapolis and Misano.

But he had no issues this afternoon as air temperatures nudged over 30 degrees and humidity reached over 50 per cent.

“I’ve had no problem at the moment. It was a hot day but I had none of the old problems,“ said Stoner, who goes into the penultimate race holding a six-point lead over Pedrosa in their battle for third place in the championship.

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt