Assen MotoGP: Casey Stoner doubts victory challenge

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Australian rider Casey Stoner doubts he will be able to seriously threaten runaway world championship Jorge Lorenzo in tomorrow’s Dutch TT at Assen.

The 2007 world champion will start the 26-lap clash from the front row after qualifying his factory Ducati GP10 in third place. 

But the 24-year-old was close to 0.3s away from Lorenzo’s Fiat Yamaha and admitted it would be tough to match the Spaniard’s fast and consistent pace.

Asked whether he could end Lorenzo’s current domination and win for the first time since last October, Stoner said: “I really don’t know but at this stage I’d say no. We’ve still got the warm-up to try and get some feeling but we’ve still got to close two or three tenths on Jorge and that will be impossible in warm-up.

"We’ve got to try and get a little bit more grip in the rear and we still can’t get the temperature in the tyres that the other bikes have. I’m struggling with the left side but once it gets up to temperature it is fine. But I’d say it is going to be a tough race. There are a few people doing quick times and if they can improve the bike and find some consistency there could be a few more threats tomorrow.”

Stoner at least believes he has the pace to end his podium drought having gone without a top three in the opening five races of the season.

A shocking start to last weekend’s British MotoGP at Silverstone left Stoner last on the opening lap before he produced a brilliant recovery to finish fifth.

He added: “At Silverstone, by the time I got to race day I was feeling a lot more confident and race pace wouldn’t have been too bad but I had a small problem with the arm pump. I don’t know if I could have stuck with Jorge but he was doing some really nice lap times and it was inevitable he was going to pull away. This race I feel a little bit better again.

"As for race pace I’m a little bit disappointed with qualifying because I wasn’t able to do enough laps. This morning I got some nice clean laps together but with all the changes we made this afternoon we couldn’t quite get the bike right. When I went to the qualifying laps I wasn’t able to make a 100 per cent of what the bike was capable of. I’m a little bit disappointed with qualifying and I think I was lucky to start on the front row with just one lap.”

Stoner was also hindered by another clutch problem today on his GP10, though he said it was a completely different issue to the one that struck at the start of the Silverstone clash.

Stoner, who has won 20 times for Ducati, said: “They are different issues. The one in Silverstone we still have no idea. It felt like the clutch plates exploded or cracked off the start and there was no consistent friction. It was on and off the whole time. For the problem today I think it was air in the line.

"We don’t really know where it came from. It worked fine for 80 per cent of practice and then it turned up for one lap. I couldn’t go back down the gears without pulling the clutch all the way in. It was a bit annoying but I’m sure we can sort it out for tomorrow.”

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt