Casey Stoner’s hopes of a fifth victory in six years in the season’s opening MotoGP race in Qatar were thwarted by a severe right arm pump issue that dropped the Australian back into third spot.
The Repsol Honda looked in complete control of the 22-lap race at the floodlit Losail International Circuit when he suddenly dropped his pace with five laps remaining.
Struggling to maintain his fast speed with a right arm pump issue, he was powerless to prevent Yamaha rival Jorge Lorenzo and factory Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa from attacking.
Stoner had a comfortable margin over Cal Crutchlow in fourth place to score his 16th successive podium finish but he told MCN: “I was pathetic on the brakes at the end of the race. I couldn't believe they didn't steamroll by me with 10 laps to go let alone waiting until those last few laps. I was quite proud because I was hanging on with everything.
"My arm was coming off the bar and the thing is nearly flicking me off. From very early on I wasn’t comfortable at all. When I got to the front I did one lap really hard and noticed I dropped everyone immediately and figured they weren’t able to run that pace.
"I started being smooth and kept dropping them and then my arm just got worse to the point where I couldn’t hold on. Eight or nine laps in I could barely hold on and I was going into corners chucking my wrist back just to put myself forward to grab the brake.
"It wasn’t pretty and I was going into corners at the end all over the place because I couldn’t feel how much brake pressure I had. I felt like a backmarker and it was ridiculous and couldn't do anything.”
Stoner said he had no indication over the course of the weekend that he was going to encounter the arm pump problem and he denied that not completing a race simulation in winter testing meant he failed to discover a potential issue earlier.
He added: “I haven’t had any signs. I changed my gloves yesterday (Saturday) from an old set that I’ve been wearing for nine months and they finally gave up.
"The new ones were a bit tight and I never felt comfortable with them, so that probably didn’t help. I had to put more effort in to grip the bike and that puts more pressure on your arm.
"It’s the second time I’ve had arm pump. I had it once in 2010 with Ducati in Silverstone and we managed to get rid of it then. So hopefully we can get rid of it before the next race. We’ve got some time.
"Most riders have had to go in for operations, so hopefully I can stay away from that. But at the same time I don’t want to waste time going to the next race or two with the same issue.
"So hopefully we can fix it before the next race and make it a little bit more comfortable, a little bit easier to ride. Because with Jorge and Dani behind you have to keep the pace up and we just weren’t able to.”
Stoner also denied that the arm pump was a result of the chronic chatter issue that his HRC squad is struggling to eradicate.
The vibration problem was back to high levels again at the Losail International Circuit and the 26-year-old said: “In the first half of the race we didn’t have chatter.
"It wouldn’t be creating it and to be honest at the end of the race when I had really big chatter it was a relief because it was shaking my arm. But it didn't help that much and it was only two seconds of relief.”
For more exclusive thoughts from Stoner on the first race of 2012, see the April 11 issue of MCN.