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Casey Stoner steps into Phillip Island date debate

Published: 15 February 2011

Casey Stoner has joined the debate raging about the future of the Australian MotoGP race at the Phillip Island circuit.

The 2007 world champion, who has won every MotoGP race on home soil since 2007, has given his thoughts on the current clamour to move the Phillip Island date from 2012 onwards.

Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta is insisting that the Phillip Island date be changed from its customary October slot on the calendar to March to reduce the risk of bad weather impacting on the event. The Spaniard has suggested the Phillip Island race will be kicked off the calendar in 2012 if organisers don't sanction a move from October, as was first reported by MCN back in mid-December.

Last year's race in October was hit by heavy rain and strong winds and led to immediate demands from Ezpeleta and a host of leading MotoGP riders for the date to be moved to much earlier in the season.

In a recent interview at Ducati's lavish 2011 team launch in Italy which was attended by MCN, Ezpeleta said: "Last year we were very close to cancelling the race. If all the weekend weather was like we had on Friday, which could happen, then we couldn't have run the event. This is the matter we are discussing and it is not just the rain but the problem at Phillip Island is rain and the cold and then the tyres are not up to temperature. Of course no one can guarantee the weather at any time of the year, but the forecasts tell us that the beginning of the year has always been much better."

Phillip Island officials recently stated they believed they had a multi-year contract in place that permitted them to stage the race in October.

Ezpeleta retaliated though by declaring that any race was dependant on the circuit being homologated and he added: "The situation is that every circuit needs to homologated to host a race and this is under certain conditions, including climate.

For example, Brno is homologated but if we need to make a race now (January) it is not homologated because there is plenty of snow there."

Repsol Honda rider Stoner has now given his view on the current situation. The 24-year-old has urged caution on the date change, adding that the weather during March at Phillip Island can be equally unpredictable.

The 2007 world champion, who is back in pre-season testing action in Sepang next week, said: "I've seen the same weather at both times of the year. We've had some fantastically nice weather at the end of the season and we've had some disastrous weather at the beginning of the season. I know some people who say when they are planning to put the race on in March; they can get some very bad and cold weather. The last couple of years have definitely not been perfect and it has been difficult to understand the tyres. But for some reason on race day the sun shines and it ends up not too bad. The decision is not up to us but there are a few people complaining about the time of year. But if we put it at the beginning of the year we could get the same weather."

Stoner though said he would happily race at Phillip Island at the beginning or end of the season so long as the spectacular coastal circuit remains on the calendar.

The track is universally popular with riders for its high speed and challenging layout and Stoner said: "It doesn't really matter what time of year it is for me as long as we keep going to Phillip Island because I really enjoy it."