Stoner controls Sepang as chatter continues

Friday, March 02, 2012

Reigning double MotoGP champion Casey Stoner only rode during four of the six available test days at Sepang, spread between two visits, but was unbeaten whenever he took to the track.

The Repsol Honda star missed day one of last month's first test due to a back strain, then - like all four RCV riders - was forced to sit out the second day of this week's return while an engine problem was investigated.

But nothing, even continued chatter problems with the 2012 Bridgestone tyres, could knock Stoner from his stride and the Australian finished Thursday's final day in Malaysia on top of the timesheets by 0.175sec from team-mate Dani Pedrosa.

“When I did my fast lap it was with 52 degrees of track temperature, the highest of the day, and 19 litres of fuel. So we're pretty happy,” said a relaxed Stoner, before heading for the nearby airport.

“We thought we could have gone faster this afternoon, but we'd finished everything we needed to do so there was no need to risk anything.”

Despite his dominant form, Stoner admitted only minor improvements had been made to the persistent chatter problem and doubts there will be a cure in time for the first race.

“The fact that we've had it this long now and not really improved it means we might have to do race one, and maybe more, with the chattering,” he said.

“We'll try and improve it, but if we can't we're still competitive.

“It's just feeling more than anything with the chattering. We've definitely got a few tenths in us without the chatter, but my main concern is if we get to tracks where maybe we haven't got the perfect feeling, the chatter will make it worse.”

Although the vibration has proved hard to shift, Stoner believes there could still be a simple fix.

“A new chassis isn't necessarily the answer. It might be something small like moving weight distribution around but unfortunately, with missing yesterday, we haven't had a lot of time,” he explained.

“We'll move the extra 4kgs of ballast around [required by Honda to meet the revised minimum weight] at Jerez and try and do it that way. We'll need quite a few runs to try all the positions.

“Other than chatter, we'd like to try and reduce the wheelie a little bit.”

As usual, Stoner stuck to short bursts of track action at Sepang and avoided a race simulation

“I never do long runs!” Stoner smiled. “Long runs for me don't give us any more information.

“When there was a tyre war you needed to make sure you could last the race. Now we're all running the same tyres. Today we did 23-24 laps on the same rear and over 30 laps on the same front and they were still working quite well.

“If we need a long run for fuel comparison we'll do it, but long runs are not the be all and end all.”

Between now and the final pre-season test, at Jerez in late-March, new father Stoner will be spending as much time as possible with his wife and daughter.

“I can't wait to get back to Switzerland. I'm hoping it'll get easier the more I leave home,” he said. “We'll see later in the season if Adriana can start travelling with me and take the baby along.”

Unlike at Sepang I, Stoner wasn't quite able to crack the two-minute mark during this week's second test, which saw rain storms on the first two days.
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