Stoner clinches championship at home

Australian Stoner likes it homegrown

Casey Stoner’s second MotoGP title was achieved in fantastic fashion on Sunday when the Repsol Honda rider secured the 2011 crown on the day of his 26th birthday and at his home race, the Iveco Australian Grand Prix, taking his ninth victory of the season. Almost 44,000 fans packed into a very windy and changeable Phillip Island circuit and the majority of them left happy as they witnessed local hero Stoner do what he do.

The Australian dominated the weekend for the fifth year running, leading the race from start to finish, giving Honda their first MotoGP premier class title since 2006. The 26 year-old took the holeshot from pole position and never looked back as the rest of the field battled for positions.

With a strong breeze blowing and darkening skies, the MotoGP race commenced with a rearranged grid following the withdrawal of both Yamaha Factory riders and Héctor Barberá’s substitute Damian Cudlin on the Mapfre Aspar team. Jorge Lorenzo withdrew after a crash in the morning warm up left him with a severely injured finger requiring surgery, while Ben Spies was still mildly concussed after a crash in qualifying on Saturday. Cudlin withdrew due to injuries from a crash in Saturday morning practice.

Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team) and Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini Team) followed Stoner into turn one, with the Italian making an early move on Hayden to take second. Simoncelli then spent the remainder of the race tussling with Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda), beating his compatriot across the line for his best MotoGP finish of second.

Dani Pedrosa was ten seconds adrift of team mate Dovizioso to finish fourth, making the top four bikes across the line all Hondas, while Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) inherited fifth place after first Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team) and then Álvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki) crashed out. Rossi fell after making a pass on Bautista, while the Suzuki man slipped toward the end of the race as rain began to fall.

Bautista looked certain to claim his best dry finish of the season. Starting from third on the grid due to Lorenzo’s withdrawal, Bautista was immediately involved in the battle for a podium position. He got into a fight with Hayden that cost the pair some pace and by the time Bautista got past the American, Rossi had caught them to make it a three-way battle. Rossi tried to make a pass on Bautista, but crashed, causing the Suzuki star to take avoiding action. Bautista made a break from Hayden, but as the laps wore on the rain clouds gathered and a brisk, but heavy rain shower caught out the Spaniard and he crashed with only four laps remaining. He was uninjured, but bitterly disappointed to see the opportunity slip away.

“It was a good, but in the end disappointing race for us today,” said Bautista. “We didn’t start so well, but I was with the front group and very close to the podium battle. After a few laps, when the tyres started to lose their grip, I started to fight with Nicky and we lost time to the others. After I got away from Nicky I tried to concentrate to get the most from the used tyre and do my best. I just had to finish the race to get a fifth place, which would have been a good result here. The conditions were difficult though because during the whole race it was raining in some parts of the track and each lap seemed different. In turn 10 I saw some drops of rain on the screen and before I could even think to react I crashed – the surface was very wet and I just couldn’t do anything about it!

Álvaro Bautista

“I am sorry for the whole team because they did a fantastic job for the whole weekend and we started from the front row for the first time this year. We were in fifth in the race and looking good, so I’m really sorry for the crash – those guys deserved something from this weekend. We now have to look forward to the next race and take all the positives from here to Malaysia and I’m sure we can go well there.”

“There are so many positives to be taken from this weekend at Phillip Island, that it’s really unfortunate to be making another ‘if only’ comment!” said Rizla Suzuki team managaer Paul Denning. “Álvaro had no idea that it was raining that hard and with no rider directly in-front of him it just looked like he was in the wrong place at the wrong time! It’s really unfortunate for all of us, but the promise shown by the GSV-R was huge and I think the race-pace potential could have been a lot better if we hadn’t have got hung up with Nicky for four or five laps, and allowed the Hondas to escape.”

The white flag had been shown on lap ten as scattered rain drops appeared, giving riders the option to swap bikes, though the rain did not start in earnest until the final couple of laps, when it claimed not only Bautista but then Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini).

Hayden was the first to enter the pits to change bikes, followed by Loris Capirossi (Pramac Racing), though it did not help their finishing positions as Hayden ended the race seventh behind Randy de Puniet (Pramac Racing) despite the Frenchman having had an earlier off-track excursion, while Capirossi finished ninth behind Toni Elías (LCR Honda). The final race finisher was Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing), who crossed the line in tenth.

MotoGP now heads directly to Malaysia for the penultimate round of the season, where Bautista will be joined on the Rizla Suzuki team by wild-card rider John Hopkins at the Sepang circuit.

Stoner’s second MotoGP title could not have been achieved in more fitting circumstances, after the Repsol Honda rider secured the 2011 crown on the day of his 26th birthday and at his home race, the Iveco Australian Grand Prix.

The first and only Honda rider to win the MotoGP title in the 800cc era – this year being the last of the engine capacity before an increase to a 1000cc limit in 2012 – Stoner adds to his 2007 title which came in Ducati colours. In taking the 2011 crown Stoner also becomes only the fifth rider to have won premier class titles with two different manufacturers, the others being Giacomo Agostini, Valentino Rossi, Geoff Duke and Eddie Lawson.

Big things were heralded for Stoner when, as a 15 year-old, he made his World Championship debut as a 125cc wildcard at Donington Park in 2001. Having graduated through the same academy system that also produced his future factory Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa, Stoner fully capitalised on the bold move made by his family of moving to Europe to further his fledgling career.

A full time Grand Prix career started in the 250cc category under Lucio Cecchinello’s guidance in 2002, but it was a step down to the 125cc class the following season that saw Stoner’s talent begin to fully flourish with four podiums and a first victory in the final round of the campaign. In 2004 he challenged for the title, taking KTM’s first ever Grand Prix win and ending the season fifth overall.

A step back up to 250s with Cecchinello’s team in 2005 produced a thrilling battle with Pedrosa for the title as Stoner amassed five wins on the Aprilia, and the next year he and the LCR team debuted in the premier MotoGP class on board a Honda as the Australian displayed flashes of brilliance – which included a pole position in only his second race at Qatar and second place in Turkey – mixed with a few disappointing crashes, all part of the learning experience. He had shown enough to encourage Ducati to make an offer to ride on their factory team the next season, and what followed was a stunning campaign.

A maiden MotoGP victory in the first race of 2007 at Qatar was a self-confessed surprise for both rider and team, but once he followed this up with wins at Turkey and China a title challenge became a more than realistic target. His standout performance at Catalunya, where he battled toe-to-toe with five-time champion Valentino Rossi will go down as one of the great races in history, whilst he dominated the mid-season with pole-to-flag victories at three consecutive races at Laguna Seca, Brno and Misano. Stoner went on to secure the title with four rounds to spare, and ended 2007 with a total of 10 wins, 14 podiums and 5 poles.

Defending his title in 2008, Stoner fought rival Rossi intensely as the pair crossed swords on a number of occasions, their duel at Laguna Seca still being talked about as one of the greatest battles of recent years, and the Australian eventually ended the season runner-up to his Italian adversary despite taking 6 wins and 9 poles in a strong second campaign on the Desmosedici.

2009 did not run a smooth course for Stoner, a mid-season three-race break due to fatigue uncovered a lactose intolerance that had affected his physical condition on the bike, and he ended the season 4th overall in the standings. 2010 was to prove not much easier as he took only three wins – all in the final third of the season – on an increasingly hard to tame Desmosedici. By that stage it had already been announced that Stoner would ride for the factory Repsol Honda team in 2011.

The switch has proved a resounding success as the 2007 World Champion displayed the same kind of dominant form that delivered him his first title four years earlier. Pole position and victory in the opening round in Qatar was a sign of things to come, and by the time Stoner won the race in Phillip Island to clinch the title with two more rounds to spare he had already taken nine victories. Added to that race success has been an incredible consistency, which has seen him finish off the podium just once – in the second round at Jerez where he crashed out through no fault of his own.

Winning his home race in Australia for a fifth consecutive season handed Stoner not only his second World title, but his 32nd career MotoGP victory, as he took victory from another pole position – his 11th of the season; this represents a new record for the most poles in one season in the MotoGP four-stroke era.

Birth date: 16/10/1985 (26 years)

Birth place: Southport, AUS

First Grand Prix: GBR – 2001 – 125cc

First Pole Position: ITA – 2003 – 125cc

First Podium: GER – 2003 – 125cc

First GP Victory: VAL – 2003 – 125cc

Grand Prix Starts: 160

Grand Prix Victories: 39

Podiums: 78

Pole Positions: 37

Race Fastest Lap: 31

World Championship Wins: 2 MotoGP (2007-2011)

Some facts about Casey Stoner’s achievement

• Casey Stoner is the first Honda rider to win the MotoGP title during the 800cc era of MotoGP.

• Stoner last won the MotoGP championship in 2007 and in winning the title this year becomes the first rider to regain the premier class world title after a three year gap.

• He has been on pole 11 times during 2011, which is a new record for most poles in one season in the MotoGP four-stroke era.

• He becomes only the fifth rider to win the premier class title on motorcycles from two different manufacturers. The other riders to have done this are Giacomo Agostini, Valentino Rossi, Geoff Duke and Eddie Lawson.

• Casey Stoner has 32 career victories in MotoGP, placing him fifth in the all-time premier-class Grand Prix winners list, after Valentino Rossi, Giacomo Agostini, Mick Doohan and Mike Hailwood.

MotoGP Career

2001: 125cc World Championship – 29th position on a Honda, 2 starts, 4 points

2002: 250cc World Championship – 12th position on an Aprilia, 5 starts, 68 points

2003: 125cc World Championship – 8th position on an Aprilia, 14 starts, 125 points, 1 win

2004: 125cc World Championship – 5th position on a KTM, 14 starts, 145 points, 1 win

2005: 250cc World Championship – 2nd position on an Aprilia, 16 starts, 254 points, 5 wins

2006: MotoGP World Championship – 7th position on a Honda, 16 starts, 119 points

2007: MotoGP World Championship – 1st position on a Ducati, 18 starts, 367 points, 10 wins

2008: MotoGP World Championship – 2nd position on a Ducati, 18 starts, 280 points, 6 wins

2009: MotoGP World Championship – 4th position on a Ducati, 13 starts, 220 points, 4 wins

2010: MotoGP World Championship – 4th position on a Ducati, 18 starts, 225 points, 3 wins

2011: MotoGP World Championship – 1st position on a Honda, 16 starts, 325 points, 9 wins

Stoner interview


Alex de Angelis

Alex de Angelis won the Moto2 race for the second year running after a hard fought battle with Stefan Bradl, who regained the Championship lead with second place. Marc Márquez rode to a brilliant third place finish after starting from the back of the grid.

Following a windy and rainy morning, the Moto2 race began in sunny conditions on a dry track with Championship leader Márquez (Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol) starting from the back of the grid after a one-minute qualifying penalty was handed to him following his collision with Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda Singha-SAG) at the end of the Friday’s first free practice session.

De Angelis, who led all three practice sessions and started on pole, took the early lead, with Scott Redding (Marc VDS Racing) assuming it at the end of lap one followed by Pol Espargaró (HP Tuenti Speed Up). Bradl took the lead on lap five, holding it until a final lap showdown with De Angelis which saw the Sammarinese come out on top to take his second victory of the season.

Márquez made up plenty of ground with an extraordinary start that launched the Spanish star to midfield from his 38th position on the grid. The Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol rider steamed full speed ahead, making up ground until lap 17 where, after passing Claudio Corti (Italtrans Racing) for third, the Italian fought back and the two battled it out to the finish, with the Spaniard making a move on the last lap to put him across the line third. His third place finished combined with the second place of Bradl rearranged the Championship standings, with the German retaking the lead by three points over Márquez with two races remaining.

Espargaró was fifth after going shoulder to shoulder with Márquez for a lap, with Kenan Sofuoglu (Technomag-CIP) taking sixth followed by Redding in seventh and Andrea Iannone (Speed Master) in eighth. Front row starters Mike di Meglio (Tech 3 Racing) and Yuki Takahashi (Gresini Racing) rounded out the top ten.

Sandro Cortese

Sandro Cortese achieved his second 125 victory of the season after a chaotic start that saw a rain shower complicate matters on the starting grid, delaying the start by eight minutes to give teams time to change tyres if they chose to do so. There were patches of clear skies showing however, though it was anyone’s guess as to if it would continue to rain. A few gamblers chose wets over slicks, but it quickly became clear that the track was drying out.

Alexis Masbou (Caretta Technology Forward Team) led off the start, bumping his French compatriot and pole starter Johann Zarco (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo) on his way out to the front. Adrián Martín (Bankia Aspar) took over the lead, however shortly thereafter enter the pits to change to slicks as the track dried out. Meanwhile Championship leader Nico Terol (Bankia Aspar) sliced his way through the field after dropping back into 17th off the start.

Cortese (Intact Racing Team Germany) pulled out a six-second lead while Luis Salom (RW Racing GP) moved into second and Efrén Vázquez (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo) raced his team-mate for third, despite the fact that Zarco is the only one who still has a chance to stop Terol in taking the Championship title.

As Terol gained ground on the front runners, three laps from the end the red flag was produced due to Niklas Ajo (TT Motion Events Racing) crashing and requiring trackside attention. The final race results were determined by rolling back the standings to the previous lap, which saw Cortese the clear winner, Salom in second, and a relieved Zarco the final podium finisher.

In fourth was Vázquez, followed by Alberto Moncayo (Team Andalucía Banca Cívica) and Terol in sixth place, the Spaniard making a remarkable recovery, though the finish has cut his Championship advantage over Zarco to 25 points.

Héctor Faubel (Bankia Aspar) finished seventh, ahead of Maverick Viñales (Blusens by Paris Hilton Racing), Louis Rossi (Matteoni Racing) and Danny Webb (Mahindra Racing) who completed the top ten. Jonas Folger (Red Bull Ajo Motorsport) never made it to his third place grid position due to his engine failing on the warm up lap.

Stoner on pole in Australia

Casey Stoner’s quest for a fifth consecutive home premier class victory continued as the Repsol Honda man took pole position after leading all three practice sessions at Phillip Island. The Australian will be joined by Jorge Lorenzo and Marco Simoncelli on the front row in Sunday’s Iveco Australian Grand Prix. Conditions were quite different at Phillip Island today as temperatures dropped and the wind speed increased, bringing with it threatening rain clouds.

The 2007 World Champion appears on course for a repeat of his performance of last year that saw the Australian lead all sessions, take pole and ride to victory as he led Yamaha Factory Racing’s Lorenzo by a margin of 0.473s in Saturday’s qualifying session. Stoner posted a time of 1’29.975 to take his 11th pole of the 2011 campaign, and if he scores ten points or more than the defending title holder Lorenzo in Sunday’s race he will secure the 2011 World Championship in front of his home crowd.

San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Simoncelli landed on the front row for the first time since the Mugello round, with a best effort of 1’30.599, while Álvaro Bautista had his and Rizla Suzuki’s best qualifying of the season with fourth, following the Italian by 0.115s. Bautista (1’30.714, 28 laps) made improvements to his GSV-R during this morning’s final practice session and the early parts of this afternoon’s qualifying to help him find the grip he was looking for around the 4,448m Phillip Island circuit. The changes certainly paid dividends because as the qualifying session wore on, Bautista was close enough to Andrea Dovizioso to use the Italian as a mobile wind-screen to help him push through the gusting gales and head for a quick time. Bautista’s lap was over a second quicker than his best time from yesterday and over two-and-a-half seconds better than his qualifying time in similar conditions at last year’s Australian Grand Prix. He is now in a strong position for the race and will be looking to capitalise on today’s performance in tomorrow’s 27-lap encounter.

“I’m very happy with today, because I got my best qualifying result so far in MotoGP and at the toughest track for Suzuki, so that shows what good work we have done since last year,” said Bautista. “It was a fantastic lap behind Dovizioso and when I saw him in front of me on the track, I thought this is my opportunity – if I can’t do a good lap now, I’ll never do one! Third row was not difficult to achieve today, but when I followed him everything seemed easier. With this type of track in this wind and with these types of corners, it helps if you can follow another rider, you can certainly improve a lot and it feels much easier to ride. My feeling is good for tomorrow and I’ll try to make a strong start and stay with the front guys in the first one or two laps. If we can do that I think we will be competitive, because in the first few laps all riders will push hard and after six or seven laps the tyres will probably drop off and the rhythm will settle down. I will try to do a good race tomorrow and get the best possible result I can.”

“To achieve Suzuki’s best qualifying since Mugello in 2009 – and Álvaro’s best so far – here at Phillip Island is almost funny!” said Rizla Suzuki Team Manager Paul Denning. “Álvaro has had a steady pace all weekend and when it mattered today he managed to tuck-in behind Dovizioso, and use him as a wind-break, and do an absolutely awesome lap-time. It’s been clear from the potential shown this year just how much the GSV-R has improved and for it to perform around here in cold and windy conditions – how it has done today – is testament to the hard work of Sahara san and his engineers in Hamamatsu and to Tom O’Kane and his crew here.

“As always to live with the factory Hondas and Yamahas will be a tough ask tomorrow, but Álvaro has put himself into a great position and if he can get a good start who knows what can happen.”

Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) joins Bautista on row two after posting a time of 1’30.780, as does Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team), who had an early run off in the first 15 minutes, then regrouped to see himself as high as third on the timing screens, finally settling in sixth with a time just 0.012s off Dovizioso’s.

Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing) had an off track excursion followed by shortly by a heavy crash in turn 3. The Texan returned to the box, then quickly got back on track to jump immediately to seventh in a speedy recovery, a position he maintained with a time of 1’30.835.

Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) followed the Texan by 0.036s to place eighth on the grid, the Spaniard was the last rider to lap within a second of Stoner’s leading time. Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) posted ninth quickest, with Loris Capirossi completing the top ten on his Pramac Racing machine, while his team mate Randy de Puniet just missed out on the top ten by 0.052s.

Damian Cudlin did not run within the 107% qualifying time, the Australian replacement for Héctor Barberá on the Mapfre Aspar team was still sore from a morning crash, however he will be allowed to race on Sunday as he was fast enough during the practice sessions to get on the grid.

Stoner interview

A frantic Moto2 qualifying on Saturday saw rain come in starts and stops, until a dry window opened in the final minutes of the session, sending the riders out into a busy closing few minutes which saw JiR Moto2 rider Alex de Angelis take pole position in a repeat of his performance last year at Phillip Island.

De Angelis, who won the Moto2 race last year, set a best time of 1’34.574, 0.088s ahead of Tech 3 Racing’s Mike di Meglio, who previously saw ninth as his highest ranking of the weekend. Yuki Takahashi (Gresini Racing) followed the Frenchman by 0.027s to take the last spot on the front row.

Scott Redding (Marc VDS Racing), who had led for much of the session after a fast early lap, eventually dropped to fourth position after setting a best lap of 1’34.699, while Kenan Sofuoglu (Technomag-CIP), who briefly topped the times in the final flurry, was relegated to fifth with his time of 1’34.729. Pol Espargaró (HP Tuenti Speed Up) and Bradley Smith (Tech 3 Racing) followed the Turkish rider in sixth and seventh.

Stefan Bradl (Viessmann Kiefer Racing) ended the session in eighth, ahead of Thomas Lüthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2) and Mattia Pasini (Ioda Racing Project) to complete the top ten on the grid.

Championship leader Marc Márquez (Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol) had a one-minute penalty added to his time of 1’35.298 following his collision with Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda Singha-SAG) at the end of the Friday’s first free practice session.

Johann Zarco

Johann Zarco (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo) took his fourth pole position of the season and his career after leading much of the qualifying practice on Saturday afternoon, just before closing the outing with a high speed fall that he fortunately walked away from.

The Frenchman’s time of 1’39.207 was the fastest of the day though Sandro Cortese’s lap set in the better conditions Friday morning remained quickest of the weekend. The Intact Racing Team Germany team rider, who qualified second at the Australian circuit last year, will join Zarco on the front row after posting a lap of 1’39.558. Jonas Folger (Red Bull Ajo Motorsport) equalled his best grid position of the season, third, after lapping behind Cortese by a margin of 0.052s.

Nico Terol, who mathematically can take the title this weekend if he can increase his current 31-point advantage to 50 points over Zarco, was fourth with a time of 1’39.702. The Bankia Aspar rider heads an all-Spanish row with Héctor Faubel (Bankia Aspar) and Efrén Vázquez (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo) joining him.

Row three is comprised of Danny Kent (Red Bull Ajo Motorsport), Alberto Moncayo (Team Andalucía Banca Cívica) and Maverick Viñales (Blusens by Paris Hilton Racing). Luis Salom (RW Racing GP) crashed out of the session early, his time set on lap five was quick enough to land him tenth in the line up.


Fast start for Stoner in Australia

Day one of the Iveco Australian Grand Prix saw Casey Stoner lead both the morning and afternoon sessions to put his Repsol Honda machine three-tenths of a second clear of Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing) in the combined times. Stoner’s morning time of 1’30.475 stood as fastest lap of the day as the Australian, who also had an early crash in the first session, joined the other third of the field who did not improve upon their FP1 times. Today?s practice was held in warm and sunny conditions, with clear blue skies covering the 4,448m Phillip Island circuit.

Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini Team) stepped up his pace by four-hundredths to slot himself ahead of Lorenzo in the afternoon despite a repeat of his morning’s misfortune of an early crash. The Italian was followed by Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing) with a time of 1’31.495, an improvement of four-tenths, though it was not enough to knock Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) out of fourth, leaving Spies to rank fifth behind his compatriot in the combined times.

Sixth for the day was Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) thanks to his time set in the morning, while team-mate Dani Pedrosa ranked seventh with a lap of 1’31.543. Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini) ranked eighth for the day, with Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team) following the Japanese rider by 0.080s with his time set in the morning to place ninth.

Randy de Puniet (Pramac Racing) took the tenth spot ahead of Álvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki), while Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team) lingered in 13th, a second and a half behind leading man Stoner. Home rider Damien Cudlin, who is replacing an injured Héctor Barberá for the Mapfre Aspar team, paced one second behind Toni Elías on the LCR Honda in 16th.

Bautista (P11 overall, 1?31.777, 42 laps) made a consistent progression up the leader board throughout the afternoon session before breaking into the top-10 in the latter stages. He finished only 0.256 seconds from fourth place and Bautista?s fastest time was almost two seconds quicker than his qualifying lap at Phillip Island 12 months ago. He is positive of further improvements tomorrow and convinced the GSV-R will be able to challenge for a good finish on Sunday.

“Up until this year this has not been one of the best tracks for the GSV-R and it was quite difficult here for me last year,” said Bautista. “In the first session this morning I didn?t feel a lot of rear grip, but we changed some things for this afternoon and it made a big difference to the feeling. We also worked on the electronics and altered the mapping for some of the corners to help with rear grip. At the end of the second session with some new tyres there was a big difference than with the used ones. This track has very fast corners and you can feel a difference between new and used tyres here quite a lot. I have done my best-ever lap at Phillip Island today and a 1?31 is not a bad time, but I still feel that we can improve the feeling in the bike and be quite a bit quicker. On the new tyres I can ride normal and with a good rhythm for a few laps, but it soon becomes difficult to exit from the corners and get the grip I need. We have improved a lot from last year and I feel more relaxed on the bike. I am happy with the first day, but will be a lot happier if I can get a good feeling tomorrow like I have had in the last few races, then I?m sure we?ll be in a good position for the race.”

“The pace of the Rizla Suzuki GSV-R on Phillip Island today is confirmation of how well, and how far, Suzuki has developed the bike since 2010,” said Rizla Suzuki team manager Paul Denning. The character of the track is still not the best for us and Álvaro still has a couple of fundamental issues that are holding him back, but to be 0.2-of-a-second from fourth place and in the top-10 in this afternoon?s session is like a dream compared to last year. We still expect a tough weekend and a tough race, but we fully believe we can be in the fight for a decent position on Sunday.?

Stoner interview

Stefan Bradl

Stefan Bradl (Viessmann Kiefer Racing) was the fastest Moto2 rider of the day as his morning session time of 1’34.039 placed him just over four-tenths of a second ahead of Alex de Angelis (JiR Moto2) and Andrea Iannone (Speed Master) in the combined session times.

Bradl was the only rider in the top ten who did not improve his time in the afternoon session, and the German had a crash in the closing stages of the first practice. Slotting into fourth was Claudio Corti (Italtrans Racing) with a time of 1’34.600, ahead of the British duo of Scott Redding (Marc VDS Racing) and Bradley Smith (Tech 3 Racing).

Mika Kallio (Marc VDS Racing), who had ranked third in the morning practice finished the day seventh overall with his best lap of 1’34.964, with Thomas Lüthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2) and Mattia Pasini (Ioda Racing Project) following the Finn. Yuki Takahashi of the Gresini Racing team completed the top ten.

Championship leader Marc Márquez (Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol), who crashed twice in the first session with the final incident a collision with Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda Singha-SAG), ranked 17th overall. Wilairot was not able to participate in the afternoon session after being transferred to hospital for precautionary medical checks.

The incident was examined by Race Direction, who reprimanded Márquez for ‘riding in an irresponsible manner’ with a one-minute penalty to be added to his best lap time in tomorrow’s (Saturday) qualifying session. Márquez’s team lodged an appeal against the decision, following which FIM stewards confirmed the decision of Race Direction.

Intact Racing Team Germany’s Sandro Cortese led the way in the afternoon 125cc practice outing with a best time of 1’38.530, three-tenths quicker than his morning time to place him at the top of the combined times for the day. Championship leader Nico Terol (Bankia Aspar) was again second in the charts, following the German rider by 0.178s after an improvement of two-tenths on his morning time, while Johann Zarco (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo) stepped up to third with a lap of 1’39.104.

The wind picked up for the afternoon session which saw the lightweight bikes produce slightly lower top speeds, although about two-thirds of the field were able to improve on their lap times, with the biggest steps coming from Adrián Martín (Bankia Aspar) who ended the day fifth in the field, and Alberto Moncayo (Team Andalucía Banca Cívica) who ranked sixth fastest. Meanwhile Héctor Faubel (Bankia Aspar) was unable to improve his pace and his morning time of 1’39.132 ranked him fourth.

Maverick Viñales (Blusens by Paris Hilton Racing) went wide in turn eight in the second outing, touching the grass and sliding out in a high speed tumble but was up and walking away immediately though his bike was too damaged for him to finish the session. He was seventh fastest of the day thanks to his morning lap time, with Jonas Folger (Red Bull Ajo Motorsport) eighth.

Danny Kent (Red Bull Ajo Motorsport) was 0.239s behind the German rider while Luis Salom (RW Racing GP) recovered from his crash in FP1 to take the tenth spot just seven-thousandths of a second ahead of Efrén Vázquez (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo).

Stoner leads the show home to Australia

Casey Stoner

The spectacular setting of Phillip Island hosts Round 16 of the 2011 MotoGP World Championship this weekend, as Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda) heads for his home race aiming to replicate his form of recent years at the track. Stoner, who currently leads the Championship standings by 40 points ahead of defending World Champion Jorge Lorenzo, has won for the last four years at his home round, and victory for a fifth consecutive season at the Iveco Australian Grand Prix could even seal the 25 year-old his second MotoGP title depending on the result of Lorenzo.

Lorenzo remains the only rider who can mathematically deny Stoner the crown. The Yamaha Factory Racing rider has a best premier class finish of second at Phillip Island, but nothing less than a win will satisfy him as he continues in his attempt to keep alive his slim hopes of retaining the title he won for the first time in 2010.

Andrea Dovizioso remains third in the Championship but now holds only a single-point advantage over team-mate and race winner last time out at Motegi, Dani Pedrosa. Dovizioso has never stood on the podium in the premier class at Phillip Island whilst Pedrosa has only done so once (in 2009), and the pair will now battle out a close contest in the remaining three rounds of the 2011 Championship as they compete to finish as the second highest rider in their factory team this season.

Ben Spies made an impressive showing as a rookie last year at Phillip Island, qualifying on the front row and scoring a top-five finish, and the Yamaha Factory Racing rider will be aiming to go one better this time around as he aims to consolidate fifth position in the standings. Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team), who fractured a finger in his crash at Motegi, will fancy his chances of catching the American before the season is out. Rossi has finished on the podium 13 times in his 14 visits to Phillip Island across all classes, including fve consecutive premier class wins from 2001 to 2005, but he has not yet tasted victory there in the 800cc era.

The Italian’s team-mate Nicky Hayden, who last week tested the GP12 at Jerez, is in line to make his 150th Grand Prix start this weekend, all of which will have come in the premier class. The 2006 World Champion will become just the ninth rider in the history of the sport to have made as many starts in the premier class.

Marco Simoncelli, who tested Honda’s 1000cc prototype following the Grand Prix of Japan, won twice at Phillip Island in the 250cc class and was sixth last season on his premier class debut at the track. Looking for a strong end to 2011 the San Carlo Honda Gresini rider will want to add to his single podium scored this season at Brno. Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini) complete the top current top ten as it stands

Returning to the premier class fold this weekend will be Damian Cudlin, the Australian rider who impressed as a replacement for the injured Loris Capirossi at Motegi. Cudlin will this weekend step in at the Mapfre Aspar team as a substitute for Héctor Barberá, who had an operation last Thursday on the right collarbone he fractured in a crash in the Japan GP.

In Thursday’s official press conference ahead of Round 16 Stoner was focused solely on taking victory at Phillip Island for a fifth consecutive year. “My chances of the Championship this weekend I think are very slim, almost none. For Jorge to finish fourth or worse, and then I have to try and win the race…” said Stoner, who turns 26 on race day on Sunday. “For me the most important thing is to actually win the race. It’s a race I want to win. I wanted to win last weekend in Japan as well but wasn’t able to, so I’ll try to bounce back here.”

Stoner continued: “It’s a Grand Prix I always look forward to coming back to. It’ll be our first time here on the Honda and we’ll see how we do. The last four years we’ve been very successful (with Ducati)… I think the bike can be working really well around here so hopefully we can put the package together and everything can go well.”

Yamaha Factory Racing rider Lorenzo, a double 250cc race winner at Phillip Island but yet to score a premier class victory here, remains defiant to the end as he tries to hold onto his title.

“Of course we will fight to the end to try and avoid Casey taking the title for as long as possible!” he said. “It means we have to fight for the win every weekend which will be tough, this year has been tougher than ever, but we’ll try.”

The Spaniard took his first premier class podium here last season when he finished second, by which time he had already claimed the 2010 title, and it is a track he enjoys.

“It’s a lovely track. When I first came here in 2002 I found it very strange… It’s so difficult, and so special,” he said. “It’s very different from other tracks around the world, but every year I have grown to love it a little more and now it’s one of my favourites.”

Stoner’s team-mate Dani Pedrosa was also present, and at just a single point behind fellow Repsol Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso in the standings a real battle between the pair is now on for third in the Championship.

“In the last few races we have gotten closer in the points, but there are still three races to go. He is riding very well, so it’s going to be hard and interesting but we will try to do the best we can in the final three races,” said Pedrosa, who is another advocate of the spectacular Phillip Island track.

“For racing it’s spectacular with very high speeds,” he enthused. “Obviously it’s always cold here but when you’re racing and sliding the rear wheel it’s a great feeling. It’s good to be here and hopefully we’ll have a good race.”

Ducati Team rider Nicky Hayden and San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Marco Simoncelli are separated by just four points in the standings in seventh and eighth positions respectively, and the duo are both targeting a strong weekend.

“Phillip Island traditionally has been a really good track for our bike, it’s never been off the podium I think somebody said… That’s going to be a little bit tougher this year, but we’ll see what happens,” said Hayden, who just missed out on a rostrum finish last year.

“It’s a track that when you’re comfortable, you can be really fast. You have to be brave and you need guts, especially at Turn 3. It’s tougher with the wind, which around here can be really nasty. Hopefully we get some decent weather.”

The American also commented on the amount of work his team and factory had put into the Desmosedici this year, adding: “We’ve obviously tried a lot of options, probably too many and maybe got a bit confused, but it’s just because we want to do well and get to the front. I don’t think Ducati has got the credit it deserves for how hard it has worked, and how hard it has tried to give me, Valentino and the rest of the Ducati riders the best opportunity to get results. Now we have three more chances this season before the introduction of the 1000cc bikes next year.”

Simoncelli, who twice won in the 250s here and who finished sixth on his premier class debut ride at Phillip Island last year, is targeting a second podium finish of 2011.

“I have a lot of good memories here at Phillip Island where I’ve won twice in the 250s and last year I didn’t have such a bad weekend. I hope to do better this year and I hope to fight for the podium on Sunday,” he stated.

The Italian also got his first taste of the forthcoming 1000cc prototypes when he tested Honda’s developing machine at Motegi following the previous round.

“It was a very good experience for me, I never tested it before,” was his reaction. “It’s really powerful. The main problem was the wheelie which was difficult to manage. It was a good test for me, I gave my impressions to HRC and I hope that can be helpful in the development of the bike.”

Marc Márquez

The Moto2 class remains the tightest of the three World Championship categories with just three rounds of the 2011 season left, and the two riders hoping to take glory will this weekend enter battle once more.

Marc Márquez (Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol) took the lead of the Championship for the first time this season following his second-placed finish at Motegi, and now leads rival for the title Stefan Bradl (Viessmann Kiefer Racing) by a single point as their fight for supremacy enters a thrilling three-race deciding final stretch.

Each rider has started from pole position seven times this year, adding another dimension to the closeness of their current situation, although it is Márquez who has the upper hand in terms of recent results having placed inside the top two in the last eight consecutive races – six of those having been wins.

Andrea Iannonne’s (Speed Master) bid to secure third place in this season’s Championship has hit a rich vein of form in recent rounds, the Italian taking four podiums in the last five races, including victory last time out in Japan, whilst Alex de Angelis (JiR Moto2) and Simone Corsi (Ioda Racing Project) are not far behind and are themselves separated by just six points.

Rookie Bradley Smith (Tech 3) and Thomas Lüthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2) are level on points in sixth and seventh respectively, the Swiss rider fresh from a first podium since the second round of the season after his result in Japan. There then stands a significant points gap to Esteve Rabat (Blusens-STX) in eighth position, who is having an impressive debut season in the category, with Yuki Takahashi (Gresini Racing) and Aleix Espargaró (Pons HP 40) completing the top ten as it stands.

MZ Racing’s Anthony West has enjoyed a positive run of results in the last two rounds and will hope to continue the trend at his home GP.

Julián Simón remains sidelined by injury as he continues to recover from further surgery to his leg, with Iván Moreno standing in for the Spaniard on the Mapfre Aspar team this weekend. Sergio Gadea (Desguaces La Torre G22) will be an absentee too as he continues to recover following a heavy crash at Motegi.

There will also be two wild card riders at Phillip Island with Australians Kris McLaren on a Suter and Blake Leigh-Smith on an FTR, both riding for BRP Racing.

Johann Zarco

The task remains a big one for Johann Zarco with Nico Terol 31 points ahead of him in the 125cc World Championship standings and just three rounds remaining, but the French rider comes into this weekend brimming with confidence after finally taking his first ever GP win last time out in Japan.

Terol (Bankia Aspar) maintains a healthy lead in the standings thanks to his second-placed finish at Motegi, and Avant-AirAsia-Ajo rider Zarco knows it will take something special to turn that around, but his confidence will be high after he defeated his rival last time out. Terol could claim the title this weekend, but such an outcome would require Zarco to place way down the order and the Frenchman has finished inside the top six in all 14 races so far this season.

In third position in the standings Maverick Viñales (Blusens by Paris Hilton Racing) could set a new points record for a rookie in the 125 class this weekend if he finishes inside the top four. The Spanish talent has 190 points, and the current record is held by Marco Melandri (202 points in 1998).

Sandro Cortese (Intact Racing Team Germany) is ten points behind with fellow German Jonas Folger (Red Bull Ajo Motorsport) a further 40 back in fifth position, and Héctor Faubel (Bankia Aspar), Efrén Vázquez (Avant-AirAsian-Ajo), Luis Salom (RW Racing GP) and Danny Kent (Red Bull Ajo Motorsport) complete the top ten.

Five wild card riders will participate in the 125 class this weekend with Australians Tom Hatton (Fastline GP Racing), Joshua Hook (, Nicholas Diles (Aprilia RSW Racing) and Alexander Phillis (Phillis QBE Racing) joined by New Zealander Avalon Biddle (Avalon Biddle Racing). Marco Colandrea replaces Francesco Mauriello on the WTR-Ten10 Racing team for the remainder of the season, and Manuel Tatasciore continues to ride in place of the injured Simone Grotzkyj on the Phonica Racing team.

The Iveco Australian Grand Prix runs from October 14th-16th and gets underway at 10.15am local time on Friday, when the 125 category starts the opening free practice session.

courtesy of MotoGP

2011 Indy coverage