Wednesday, October 12, 2011 » 06:35pm
Once or twice, perhaps even three times might be a coincidence. But four straight Australian Motocycle Grand Prix wins means Casey Stoner’s Phillip Island dominance is surely more complex.
Home-hero status cannot propel a local rider to such a string of successes, a fact the 2011 world champion-elect readily admits.
There is more to it and the Honda rider can trace his triumphant run to a specific point.
Stoner never really had great success before his home crowds in the smaller grand prix categories, but when he opened the throttle on the biggest machines in the business, things began to change.
His success was previewed by his step-up in 2005 from the 125cc class to the larger 250cc bikes. There was immediate success with five wins and a second place finish in the championship.
The following year Stoner entered the elite MotoGP category on a Honda and finished eighth but took the title by the throat when he moved to Ducati in 2007, claiming the world crown.
From then on he has been unbeatable on the fast, flowing seaside circuit.
‘Ever since I’ve been on the big bikes I’ve just gelled with PI and I think that with the speed I can go through some of the corners faster than other riders and that gives me my edge,’ Stoner said.
‘I never saw myself as a hometown rider, I didn’t do well the first few years I went to PI. I guess the more I got to those tracks that had higher corner speed and you can open up the bigger bikes I just got more comfortable.’
Now, after a clutch of wins at the track, he describes success there as ‘sweet.’
‘Winning at PI definitely feels a lot sweeter and at the end of the race and you get up on the podium in front of the home crowd and know that everyone is proud of you and that you have won for Australia,’ he said.
‘So when we get to win on home turf it is something pretty cool and is a nice feeling with all the fan support.
‘I look forward to racing at Phillip Island every year, it is one of the few tracks I really joy,’ Stoner said.
If Stoner wins at the Island and Lorenzo finishes fourth or worse then Stoner will be champion with two races remaining.
If for some reason Lorenzo does not finish then Stoner only has to be sixth to secure a second MotoGP title.
Stoner said winning his second MotoGP world crown in front of his home fans at Phillip Island next month would be ‘fantastic’ but he remains focused on the race.
‘The Honda should work well there so I’m looking forward to seeing what I can achieve. if you win races the championship will take care of itself.
‘There is a possibility to win it at the Island which would be fantastic but I’m not thinking about it too much. I have less pressure this year.’
Lorenzo concedes he will need a miracle to retain his title.
‘It’s too late,’ he said. ‘Even if I won the last three races, including Australia, it still doesn’t give me the world title.
‘Casey must finish further back than second in each race and in my mind I don’t see this situation unless there is something strange.
‘Maybe I can win some races but I can see winning three races, it is too late with the bike we have.’
Stoner would love to wrap up the series in Australia but has no problem if he finds himself in a shootout with Lorenzo in the final two races in Sepang and Valencia.
‘It would be nice to go into the last race without having to think about the championship but I have no problem if I have to go to the final race for the championship,’ Stoner said.
‘That will get your blood rushing. I’ll continue as I am and if I make mistakes then I have a bigger buffer to make those mistakes, but I’ll still be trying to win races.’
Lorenzo’s slim hopes reamain alive after he finished ahead of Stoner in last week’s Japanese Grand Prix, won by Dani Pedrosa.
He gained four points on the Australian but has the monumental task of making up a 40-point deficit in three races to cause an upset.