A Crash.net feature in which Bridgestone's Tom Tremayne interviews a MotoGP rider at each of the remaining 2009 rounds. At Estoril, it's Casey Stoner...

The first rider to win a world championship title on Bridgestone tyres, Casey Stoner has been the talk of the MotoGP paddock in the past months owing to his much publicised three-race absence. Such instances of mid-season breaks are very rare, and the Australian's decision was not taken lightly.

"Firstly you know for me it was a very difficult decision to make. We were struggling in the last races, and we went back to Australia after Donington to get an understanding of what's going on and see some more doctors.

"We were planning to come back for Brno but unfortunately we didn't find any solutions in the short time and we had nothing but recommendations from my doctors, my wife, my father, everybody said 'that's enough' you know, that I had to take some time out. That's when the decision was made to take three races away."

As the rumour mill worked over time, Casey insisted "It was never going to be any more than three. Already it was a tough enough decision for me. It was something that I wasn't forced into, but it was highly recommended by everyone.

"For sure it was disappointing for the whole team that I wasn't able to come back for Brno and the next two races, and I apologise for that and for every race I wasn't competitive in. We've all been doing the best job we can. The team have been working with me to make the bike less difficult to ride because my levels were so low."

Casey's last win came at the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello at the end of May, and his results since have been two thirds, two fourths and 14th at Donington following a tyre gamble on Bridgestone's wet tyres as rain threatened but failed to materialise.

"Everyone's been doing the best job they can, including me, and it's just been a very difficult period for us. With all the effort from everyone, we still haven't been able to do that last bit of the race that we really needed to be in.

"You know for me to have so many races away was very difficult. I've never had such a long period away, especially in the middle of the season, without riding and it was very very very difficult. Sure I knew the results of the races, but I couldn't watch them on TV. It was just too hard as I wanted to be there. For me it's been too long away from the bike and I really miss it."

With the focus of the break very much on rest and relaxation, the 2007 world champion is feeling recovered although perhaps not entirely fighting fit after his time away from the paddock.

"During the time off we did everything we could and tried to do our best from seeing the right doctors to doing to the right things to being on the right diet, trying to increase levels that the blood test showed I was a little bit low in.

"It's great to be back out there on the bike and I am really enjoying myself. Physically I feel about as well as you could expect considering that I haven't trained properly for almost four months now and I'm pleased with that. One thing I did struggle with was arm pump, which I expected, and I needed a bit of a rest in the later stages of the session. We'll just have to see over the rest of this weekend how I perform and how everything's gone from the last weeks."

Following his third position finish at Misano, Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa took third spot in the championship standings from Casey. With four races remaining this season and only seven points between the two riders though, the race will be on for that final step of the podium.

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