Casey Stoner, who returned to the head of the MotoGP World Championship with victory last time out at Mugello, insists leading the standings at this stage in the season means 'absolutely nothing'.
The Australian took his first victory since the Qatar season opener with a one-second win over Jorge Lorenzo in the wet/dry Italian Grand Prix. The win was Stoner's 18th in the premier-class, matching countryman and fellow world champion Wayne Gardner.
However, with only a four point lead over fellow double 2009 race winner Lorenzo, and a nine point advantage over reigning six time champion Valentino Rossi, Stoner believes his present position is irrelevant with 12 rounds and 300 points still to be decided.
“This championship is extremely difficult and competitive and even a victory like the one at Mugello, wonderful as it was, needs to be put behind us so that we can turn our focus to the next race,” he began.
“Being leader of the championship at this stage means absolutely nothing. My rivals are very clever, mature and capable of winning races so we have to stay focused, do our best to be competing for the top step of the podium again and if that's not possible then make sure we are bringing home the maximum number of points.”
Stoner won at Barcelona during his title winning 2007 season, and was third last year.
“Barcelona was one of my favourite circuits until they re-laid it,” he said. “Even though they put a completely new surface down a few years ago it has never been the same as it was before and the fact they race F1 there hasn't helped the situation in terms of the bumps and potholes.
“The layout is nice though - the first part isn't too difficult but the middle and end parts of the lap are technical and demanding, especially the fast pair of right-handers coming onto the start-finish straight.”
On Friday morning both Stoner and Nicky Hayden will be honoured by the Circuit de Catalunya with the unveiling of their own plaques on “Champions Avenue” - adding their names to those of Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton and Dani Pedrosa, amongst others - in celebration of their MotoGP titles.