Former world champion Casey Stoner admitted he has little chance of fighting for the victory in tomorrow’s Italian MotoGP race at Mugello.
The Australian will start the 23-lap clash from the front row after qualifying his factory Ducati in third place behind Spanish duo Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo.
But the 24-year-old, who has crashed out of two of the opening races, played down his chances of repeating his success at Mugello of a year ago.
Stoner has reverted to last year’s Ohlins front forks to solve some of the front-end issues that have dogged him in the early part of the season.
But today he claimed his main problem was a lack of rear grip from his factory Ducati GP10 machine.
Stoner posted a best time of 1.49.432 but was a massive 0.613s behind Repsol Honda rider Pedrosa this afternoon.
The 2007 world champion said: “Race pace I’m way off and nowhere near where I need to be. I made one of my best qualifying laps I’ve ever done for the situation I’m in. If we don’t improve the set-up I don’t really want to start at the front and go backwards.
"I’d rather start back and move forwards. But we’ve got a lot of work to do tonight and do everything we can tomorrow. We hoped we’d be a bit faster at this track than we have been in the past with the new bike and the new engine.
"But we have struggled a little bit and it is something we definitely weren’t expecting and we need to find a few tenths to at least be competitive. It’s not so much that we’re using last year’s front forks. It’s not really a confidence problem but I just want good feedback from the bike.
"I’ve got that but we can’t get the bike hooked up out of the corner and I’m struggling with rear grip. And when we do get some rear grip the front starts running wide in the longer turns. We’ve got to try and find the balance so we can at least manage the bike.
"We didn’t really improve in the session and I felt we could improve. But we never seemed to get to the lap I wanted to. I wanted to be doing at least mid-50s but I’m doing high 50s and I know I’m going to struggle to match the pace of Dani and Jorge and it will be a hard race. We’ve got to get some pace out of our bike though before we can understand the forks properly.”
Stoner starts tomorrow’s race still searching for his first rostrum finish of the season and he’s already 59-points adrift of series leader Lorenzo.