US MotoGP: Casey Stoner keeping feet on ground

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Casey Stoner refused to get carried away after he made a storming start to the American MotoGP weekend at Laguna Seca.

The 2007 world champion won an exciting opening practice duel with Spaniard Jorge Lorenzo to top the timesheets with a quickest time of 1.21.699.

That put him 0.233s clear of series leader Lorenzo even though the Australian was not entirely happy with the set-up of his factory Ducati GP10.

The 24-year-old, who hasn’t won a race since the Malaysian Grand Prix last October, struggled to find stability on the brakes despite his scorching pace.

Stoner, who dominated at Laguna Seca in 2007, said: “I didn’t think it was anything really that great until maybe ten minutes ago. We saw we were close enough to the lap record.

"In general the bike felt pretty good today. We still have to improve a little bit on the front end to try and get a little more stability on the brakes. We seem to be having problems when the rear tyre comes off the ground and touches again.

"There’s quite a few braking bumps around the track this year in three particular corners and that is a huge difference from last year. The track’s really deteriorated quite a lot and there are particular corners that sort of make it very difficult.

"We’re trying to get our set-up to work around those corners, but we’re losing a little bit in others. So we’re just going to have to make do with the bike being a little bit unstable and try to make the bike work a little better and turn a little better in a lot of the corners.”

Turn five, six and the last corner were causing the stability issues, according to Stoner as only Lorenzo could lap within 0.5s of his best pace.

He said: “The last turn, you could ride over there on a push bike and feel them. It’s just going in there and it feels like real motocross braking bumps more than anything.”

"Ominously for his rivals, Stoner reckons he’s got plenty more in reserve for the rest of the weekend.

“It’s possible to improve a lot. The grip seems quite good this year. The bumps are out biggest issue at the moment but definitely I’ve got a few tenths in myself, and a few tenths in the bike. If we can work everything together and become a little more comfortable, then we can go a fair bit faster, “said Stoner.

Stoner, who will quit Ducati at the end of the season to move to Honda, said his preference was to race with the harder compound Bridgestone tyre and he said: “At the moment I feel a lot better with the harder tyre. We did the lap time with the softer one, but didn’t have such a good feeling and I felt it drop quite quickly.

"We also didn’t get to run any good lap times because I had to do a lot of laps first with the hard tyre and I was getting faster and faster.”

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt