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Aug 11, 2011

Stoner Relaxes Stance On Japanese GP

From left: Karel Abraham, Jorge Lorenzo, Casey Stoner, Valentino Rossi and Alvaro Bautista. Photo courtesy of MotoGP.com.
Refreshed and ready for their imminent return to action after a two-and-a-half week interval since Laguna Seca, the MotoGP class returns to the track on Friday morning for the opening session of the Cardion ab Grand Prix České Republiky.

Discussing the 11th round of the 2011 campaign on Thursday afternoon at the Brno circuit were a quintet of premier class riders, who attended the official pre-event press conference as the Czech venue prepares to get the second stretch of the season underway.

Thanks to his impressive win at Laguna Seca last time out his fifth of the year Casey Stoner heads into this weekend 20 points clear of defending World Champion and closest current rival Jorge Lorenzo in the standings, as he aims to protect his lead at the top of the Championship.

"We went into the break with a good result and so far it's been a fantastic season. We'll now just have to see how this weekend goes and the second half of the season," said the Repsol Honda rider. "This is definitely one of my top three circuits and I have a lot of fun coming here, I like the area and I'm really ready for this race. I think it's going to be a good one for us. At the moment a few of us are consistently running up at the front and between myself and Jorge it's a battle week by week to see who takes points off who."

Stoner will also stay on for the official test on Monday, in which he will continue the development of Honda's 2012 prototype machine. "I'm looking forward to another 1000cc test," he explained. "It's going to be a lot of fun coming to another circuit. Jerez was a nice test at a track that's never really suited my style but I did surprisingly well there and we felt good with the bike. We'll see how we go at this test and how it all compares on a different circuit."

With the Japan GP in October a continual subject of discussion amongst riders and the media, and with the recent release of the report commissioned by the FIM and Dorna which confirmed that the GP is still scheduled to go ahead, Stoner gave his latest stance on the matter.

"There was a period after Silverstone that I felt very strongly that I wasn't going to go to Japan after things I'd seen and heard," he said. "That came from a very strong sense of emotion after we found out that Adriana (Stoner) was pregnant. We've discussed it a lot since then and that's a huge thing that's happened in my life and now the most important. So I felt that the best thing I could do at that time was to make my mind up. There was no way I was going to risk my wife or my family and it was very tough."

"In these weeks I've taken a lot of data from Australia, people we feel we can trust on the matter, and I'm now slightly more open to it than I was before. I think people can understand I was taken a little bit with my safety and that of my family in this matter. We'll see in these next weeks, we'll continue talking and try and find out as much information as we can. I'm not saying that I am going, but I'm not saying that I'm not. So we'll just have to see what happens in the near future."

When the other four riders present were asked about their opinions they commented that they would also wait further before making a firm decision, with a riders' Safety Commission meeting planned for Friday.

Following Stoner's comments Lorenzo was the next to speak, and the Factory Yamaha rider's focus ahead of this weekend was clearly on closing his rival's advantage.

"We know it's going to be very hard work because he is riding so fast this year, so consistent, and has a good bike. But we are doing a lot, the bike is I think a winning bike, I am in good shape. From this moment in the season we have to try and improve the bike a little more so I think it's going to be an interesting second part of the season," he commented.

"In theory this is a good track for us, for the bike and my riding style, it's a track that can be good for us," added Lorenzo about Brno, where he won last year. "But this is just a theory. We must wait and see what happens during the weekend. The test on Monday is also going to be really important, it will be the first time I try the new bike. I have never tried a bike like that with such a powerful engine. We will see if I have to change my riding style for the bike."

The Brno circuit holds special memories for Valentino Rossi as the site of his first GP win back in 1996, when the Italian took a 125 victory, and he said: "It's already 15 years since the first win, which was here, so great memories!"

Looking ahead to this weekend at a circuit at which he has five wins and three second-placed finishes in the premier class, Rossi continued: "Jeremy (Burgess, crew chief) came back at Laguna Seca, we missed him a lot in Mugello and Sachsenring, and we decided to continue with this bike (the Ducati Desmosedici GP 11.1). We expect more improvements compared to the old one, but we have to work hard, Ducati are working hard to improve all the areas we are having problems in. Fortunately on Monday we have a test, so we hope for good weather and we have a lot of work to do."

"Laguna was a better weekend for me and my team, I started from the third row and had a normal race for what is our potential at the moment," he added. "It looks like we are not so slow at the end of the race on used tyres, we are slow at the beginning so we need to raise our potential and work on that for qualifying."

Riding in his home race in the premier class for the first time this weekend, Karel Abraham will have the expectations of the crowd upon him and the rookie acknowledged the significance of this round.

"Of course this is a really important GP for me as it's my home race, there is a lot of pressure and nobody means it in a bad way. We need to get a lot more experience than we have now, but with every lap we ride with the other riders we are doing that," he said.

"We are happy so far with the season, of course we've had some crashes which we're not happy with but that happens when you're pushing your limits. We will just try to have a good weekend and race, fight with some riders and then after the chequered flag we'll say whether it was a good or bad race."

Joining the other four rider was Rizla Suzuki's Álvaro Bautista, who is gaining confidence with every improvement made on the GSV-R this season.

"It's not my best season this year but after the crash and the injury I can say I'm at my top level and can enjoy riding the bike and can reach the limit," he stated. "The bike is much better than at the beginning, I've had some great battles like the one with Valentino in Sachsenring, and I'm looking forward to continuing this way this weekend."

Bautista will be riding alongside wild card entry John Hopkins this weekend, something he hopes will benefit both himself and the team. "I hope it's good for me, if he's slower than me for sure it's good for me! It's good for the team to have two bikes on the track and to have the opportunity to compare between two riders, because it's difficult with one rider to test everything throughout a weekend," he concluded.