Casey Stoner has admitted the recovery of his damaged right ankle has not been as fast as he had hoped after the reigning world champion finished seventh quickest on his comeback in Japan today.
Stoner badly damaged his right ankle in a high speed qualifying crash in Indianapolis in mid-August and has missed the last three races after major surgery.
The Aussie admitted he had returned to the Repsol Honda squad ahead of the schedule his medical team at home preferred, but he impressed this morning in opening practice to set the fourth quickest time.
A lap of 1.47.316 was only 0.397s behind Andrea Dovizioso in third but after the second session he’d slipped back down the rankings to seventh.
He ended the day with a best time of 1.46.978 to finish just shy of 0.9s slower than teammate Dani Pedrosa, who headed the combined leaderboard.
Stoner said the biggest problem with his right ankle was the lack of mobility and he told MCN in Japan earlier today: “The issue is mainly trying to get my weight forward on the bike. There is so much wheelie here that I can't bend my leg to get my weight forward.
"If they were all left hand corners it would be no problem but because of all the rights it is the same as Indianapolis. I can't flex my foot far enough to get my weight forward. Without enough movement in my ankle is the most difficult thing but my body will come better tomorrow.
"The first session was harder than the second when I felt more comfortable and my arms were a little looser. But I'm hoping after some sleep it will be better again."
Stoner admitted he expected his ankle to have recovered better by this stage and he added: “I expected my foot to be in a better situation now. In these two months I expected it to heal a little bit quicker but unfortunately it is not.
"I didn't really expect to be any better than where I am on the first day, so I'll be patient and wait until I'm feeling better."
Stoner also said it was too early to make a proper assessment on how his fitness would hold up during Sunday’s race.
He has not been able to properly train since the Indianapolis accident and he said: “I don't know what I'm going to be capable of. I think I'll improve a lot tomorrow.
"This was first day back and just trying to get a feeling for the front and where the grip levels are. I’m also trying to get my foot to move a little bit more but it is being stubborn. Hopefully a little bit of rest will improve the situation."
Stoner’s return to action after the longest lay-off of his Grand Prix career could not have got off to a worse start this morning.
The double MotoGP world champion had only just rolled out of the pits to start his first lap when his RC213V suffered a technical malfunction barely 200 yards into his comeback.
He said: “I don’t know what happened but the bike the bike shut down. It was something to do with the butterflies, it wasn't working and it sensed something wasn't right.
"I tried everything, switching it on and off but nothing worked. I lost a crucial ten minutes but at least I had most of the session."