Go Go Tiger Paws
Although it’s widely accepted I’m a complete Alvaro Bautista nut, I have no illusions about his championship chances this season, and I’ve always cheerd on other riders too. One rider I loved and cheered for in the top class right from his slightly ragged first season in 2006 is Aussie boy Casey Stoner. He’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but then plenty of people always have something to say about Dani Pedrosa or Jorge Lorenzo too. You just can’t please everyone.
Casey is a mercurial talent and a hard worker, and can work miracles when all things line up with the bike… He did a moster job of taming the Ducati to stomp through 2007 to the MotoGP title.
And this season he could well be something of a favourite again. Certainly I’m going to be rooting for him at the front of the field and I hope on the top of the podium.
He’s looking cool and confident – and fast – on the bike so far; and he’s also looking quite dapper in the new Repsol kit including some nifty aboriginal designs worked into his orangey Alpinestars boots and gloves, which because of how they look from anything other than extreme close-up has already bagged him the nickname “Tiger Paws” for 2011.
All of which is basically a preamble into a nice interview released by the Repsol Media service on the back of the testing in Sepang and ahead of the final Qatar pre-season tests.
Casey Stoner came back home satisfied about the results obtained in the Sepang tests. After some days resting and thinking already in the approaching start of the Grand Prix season, the Australian rider is optimist about the tests in Qatar, where the last tests of the preseason will take place before the start of the MotoGP World Championship.
Casey, what you did in Malaysia – the last day of the tests – was simply amazing …
“Well, the day before, when we finished the job, we were aware that the next day in the morning we would be able to set a time under two minutes. In Sepang the track is usually at its best in the morning, but I do not usually feel at 100% in the first laps, I prefer to set my fastest time at the end of the day. We decided to use the soft tyres and try to be the first in setting a time under two minutes. To be honest I did not think that only one other rider would set a time like this, as the track was in optimal conditions. We must be happy about the job we did there, it was very good”.
Qatar is a special race for you and you have won it on several occasions. How do you feel about the start of this new season?
“I am very excited, because we spent many days training, but that is not the ideal situation, as during the preseason we don’t have a wide variety of circuits. Nevertheless, the races are finally approaching and I am looking forward to see how we perform with this team, how I work with the bike on the circuit and, above all, which is the general level for everyone. I am sure there will be riders more confident than others, so it will be interesting to see who goes for victory in the first race”.
What is your opinion about the Grand Prix of Qatar will lasting four days?
“I don’t like it. It is very difficult because at the time that we have to ride, late in the evening, the track conditions are very bad, cold and unpredictable. I would be better if we could ride a little earlier. But for a Grand Prix to last 4 days is too long. For me that’s not the ideal, but everyone would be in the same situation, so we will go on as we have”.
Your team mate Dani and you showed great strength during this preseason. Do you think this year everyone will be faster than ever?
“I think so, I have seen many riders that are taking more risks and they are pushing a lot more. There is more competitiveness because they think victory is possible, they feel they are closer to the podium and that motivates them to take more risks than before. I think we will see very exciting races this year”.
Do you think the Honda is a step ahead of its rivals?
“It is difficult to say. Naturally, we are happy with the path Honda has taken and everything they have done for us from our first test in Valencia to now, because they have made good progress. Both Dani [Pedrosa] and I are pushing a little more than the others, but until we get to the race it is difficult to know where we really are. At this moment we are happy with what Honda is giving us, we just need to be sure that everything will work at the races”.
Where are you with the clutch, the engine brake and the rebound problems you talked about during the tests?
“It is difficult to know if the problem comes from the clutch or the electronic control. The bike rebounds a lot when entering the corners and it is difficult to brake late, because the bike is a bit unstable. It is something on which we have worked a lot, specially during the two last sessions. We have improved a bit on that, but it is not enough yet, we have to dedicate more time to it to be at 100%. About the suspension, at the moment we are using last year’s standard. We also have a modified 2011 fork that we tested once, but we had some problems and we did not feel fully comfortable. We decided to wait until we are sure about what we want from the bike before asking about the forks; we need more time to decide what we want”.
Do you think we will see the same four riders on top this year or are there going to be changes?
“I expect some surprises, although I did the same last year and there were the same four riders winning races and getting on the podiums. I am certain Dani [Pedrosa] and Jorge [Lorenzo] will be in front, but Andrea [Dovizioso] is quickly improving and also Simoncelli and Ben Spies can increase the list. Valentino might be ready for the first race, but we might have to wait a little. But I am sure that there might be some unexpected rider that will make an effort to be in front”.
Source: Repsol Media