Casey out to cement Catalunya love affair
BARCELONA - Agence France-Presse
Defending MotoGP champion Casey Stoner was victorious in the 2007 and 2011 races in Catalunya and went on to win the championships at the end of the season. The Australian says he aims to win the MotoGP title again in his last year in the sport. AFP photoCasey Stoner may be retiring at the end of the season but the Australian’s appetite to lift a third world title is if anything greater than it has ever been.
Stoner goes into the latest leg of the season on June 3, the Catalunya Grand Prix, bidding to repeat his wins at the Montmelo circuit in 2007 and 2011 - coincedentally, the years he went on to be crowned motorcycling world champion.
“Catalunya is one of my favorite races and it was the first major grand prix circuit I tested on,” explained Stoner. “Ever since that moment I fell in love with the track, the big fast sweeping corners; there’s a lot of control in the middle of the turn trying to get grip for the exit.
“We know the Honda works well here and we had a good race last year. I hope this weekend will be dry.”
He goes into this fifth race of the season placed second in the rider’s standings on 82 points, eight behind Jorge Lorenzo, who lines up on the back of his win at Le Mans last time out, where Stoner took third behind runner-up Valentino Rossi.
Aside from Lorenzo, one of Stoner’s main rivals on June 3 will be his Honda teammate and local hope Dani Pedrosa, who missed last year’s race due to injury.
“Montmelo is a difficult circuit for the bikes and the tyres but it’s always a great race,” Pedrosa told to press.
A Catalunya winner in all three categories, Pedrosa is third in the standings, 25 points below Lorenzo.
Lorenzo, like Pedrosa, feels at home in Barcelona, having set up base in the Catalan city.
“It’s my home race. I’m from Mallorca, but have lived in Barcelona for a long time,” he said.
“It’s also a track where I’ve had great results in the past. I think for the 1000cc Yamaha it could be a good track. I hope we have a weekend with good conditions, but if it rains, we’ll be OK as well.” The 2010 title-holder predicts a tight contest come Sunday.
“It’s (the season) been very tough with a lot of competition, especially in the front group with Casey (Stoner) and Dani.
“The races have a very high pace and are physically demanding. To be at the front you can’t stop concentrating, you have to be at the limit all the time, and of course not crash.
“To do this is always difficult, but I’m a little bit older and more experienced than the previous years, so this can make it a bit easier.” Rossi, the nine-time world champion, burst back to something like his old form in France, where he posted his best finish since joining Ducati, and was displaying plenty of zip in testing at Mugello last week, too.
Rossi rates Montmelo “one of my three favorite circuits” although he refused to get too excited about his Mugello times, saying: “We know that in the rain we’re fast, but our target is to be faster in the dry.
“It’s (Catalunya) one of my three favorite tracks of the season. I love to race here and I love the atmosphere with the fans.”