Sepang MotoGP: Casey Stoner hopeful of podium challenge

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Repsol Honda rider Casey Stoner is hoping he will be in the hunt for a podium in Sunday’s Sepang MotoGP race, but admits he has no idea how much of a hindrance his injured right ankle will be.

The Aussie faded to fifth in last Sunday’s Twin Ring Motegi race in Japan as he struggled physically on his return from a six-week injury lay-off.

The double world champion was back in action in Japan for the first time since he badly damaged his right ankle in a qualifying crash at Indianapolis in mid-August.

But while he felt his RC213V machine was fast enough to get on the podium in Japan, he wasn’t physically strong enough to fight with Jorge Lorenzo and teammate Dani Pedrosa.

Asked by MCN in Sepang earlier this afternoon if the Malaysia race would be an easier experience, despite the extreme heat and humidity, Stoner said: “It should be a little easier on the ankle.

“There are not as many tight corners to pick up the bike. And most of the tight corners here are left-handers so I should be better.

“But physically I was drained in Japan. I’m not sure if that was me trying to pick up the bike and having to use my upper body rather than my legs or if it was just the fact that I haven’t been on a bike for while and not trained.

“I’m hoping that I’ll be a little better for this race than in Japan. Normally this race is a lot harder for me than Japan. This one is a lot more difficult and you have to pace yourself in the race. 

“Because my injury was hampering me a lot more in Japan I don’t know whether the heat or the ankle will be more difficult.”

Stoner said he hoped to be competitive in at least one of the three remaining races before he retired, but he denied his main target was to bow out in front of his home fans at Phillip Island with an unprecedented sixth victory in a row later this month.

He added: “I am hoping that at one of these next three tracks I can be competitive. I had the speed in Japan, my bike had the speed on race day, but I didn’t and certainly not for long enough. 

“I didn’t have enough power to fight and was also a lot more cautious to be honest than I normally would be. There was black smoke coming off Ben’s bike which ended up being the brake disc but I didn’t know that at the start.

“The black smoke could have been oil again similar so I just didn’t take lunges at Cal (Crutchlow) in this early laps. 

“Then when I got back up to pace Cal wasn’t making many mistakes and I wasn’t really getting the exits out of right-handers, so I lost all my good opportunities to overtake. 

“I took it too cautiously. If I can get over that this weekend and find it a little easier to ride then I should be able to be competitive. Being behind Cal in some ways kept me stronger for a bit longer but then I still really struggled at the end of the race, so I don’t want that to happen again here and I’ll be doing everything I can to be competitive. 

“But no more so at this track than Phillip Island or Valencia, but for sure I want to do well in Phillip Island.”

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt