Casey Stoner’s stunning return to the MotoGP world championship continued in breathtaking fashion at Sepang, the Aussie romping to a crushing victory in a weather-hit Malaysian clash.
Making only his third start since returning from a lengthy illness break, Stoner superbly mastered treacherous conditions to score his 20th MotoGP victory to virtually guarantee third place in the 2009 standings.
Once he’d quickly disposed of the fast starting Dani Pedrosa, Stoner was in a class of his own in the early stages, stretching out a commanding lead on his factory Ducati GP9.
His advantage at one stage was a massive 17 seconds and at the conclusion of the 21-lap encounter, Stoner coasted home to win for a second successive race by close to 15 seconds.
Coming hot on the heels of his brilliant third straight home win at Phillip Island, the jubilant 24-year-old said: “This was a strange race, you know, but we’re all coping with the same conditions.
"We don’t get a lot of testing here in the wet, because normally when it rains it’s too much and then by the time it stops raining in five minutes it’s dry. So it’s normally difficult to get a good feeling on this track with the wet. Everybody’s getting nervous because they don’t know what the track conditions are like, where the slippery patches are.
"And it’s pretty much going around and feeling your way around, finding your braking points, seeing where the water’s running across the track. And it makes things difficult, but we managed to feel pretty comfortable and I’m very, very happy with this result.
"After the first lap I felt reasonably comfortable. I got a really bad start to start with and didn’t think I was going to get out of the first two corners alive. I thought I was going to be taken out, but once I got in front I didn’t really expect to have a bit of an advantage.
"I decided to keep going with that until I got an advantage that I was happy and comfortable with and from there just sort of maintained it. The bike was working pretty well.
"The conditions were difficult, very slippery and it was easy to make a small mistake and run wide, so I was just trying to keep it as smooth and consistent as I could and when I was out in front I was just mainly struggling with concentration and trying to stay focused and not make a small error that could cost me the race.”
The monsoon rain that struck Sepang shortly before the race certainly helped Stoner. Expecting a serious physical examination in normally hot and humid conditions, the rain lowered temperatures to 27 degrees, much cooler than usual Sepang conditions.
Stoner though showed no signs of his recent fatigue issues coming back to hinder him and he said: “I expected the race to be quite warm if it wasn’t wet. Luckily it was wet, but even in the wet it was still so muggy and thick that you didn’t really get much of a break. And with this circuit and the grip not being very good, your body movement is a lot higher than it usually is in the wet and made things a little bit more difficult.
"But I think even if the track was dry and it was hot conditions, I don’t think I would’ve had any harder time than anybody else. So we can only go forward from here. With the amount of training I’ve done this year it is not enough, so I think we can only get better from here on in.”
Stoner has collected 70 out of 75-points since his return in Estoril earlier this month to raise expectations that he can mount a serious title challenge in 2010.
He added: “Hopefully I can make a stab at the title next year. We’re really strong now and I can only see us getting stronger from here, which is great news for next season. I’m sure that if we continue to work like this ourselves we can put up a much stronger challenge next time.”
The 2007 world champion also passed on his congratulations to Rossi after he captured his ninth world title with a distant third, the Italian just shy of 20 seconds adrift of Stoner.
He said: “I want to congratulate Valentino because to win nine world championships is an incredible achievement.”