Defending Dutch TT winner Casey Stoner 'can't wait' for this weekend's 2009 Assen event, as he seeks to continue an impressive MotoGP record at the historic circuit – and break free from fellow world championship leaders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo.
All three have won two races so far this year, but Stoner is the only one of them to have scored points in all six rounds, including a podium last time out in Catalunya, when he battled sickness to just hold off Repsol Honda's Andrea Dovizioso.
Despite the result, Stoner was frustrated at being unable to stick with his Fiat Yamaha title rivals, but has a strong record in the premier-class at Assen, having finished fourth on his 2006 debut (Honda LCR), then second in 2007 and first in 2008.
Both podiums came with Ducati and the young Australian expects the 2009 version of the Desmosedici to be competitive this weekend, although a little more rear grip would be welcome.
“Assen is a strange track for me because before I rode there in MotoGP it was one of my favourite circuits but one where I never managed to get great results in the smaller categories,” said Stoner, who took one podium as a 125/250cc rider at Assen.
“Then in 2006 I had a decent result and since then, with the Ducati, I've always been fast. Considering the fact that the GP9 has already shown that it is competitive on a variety of circuits, I can't wait to get back to Assen,” he declared.
“Ideally we'd like another weekend of consistent good weather so that we can work on the bike and find a bit more rear grip, which is the only thing we're missing at the moment. The rest of the bike is great - it is turning well and the front is really stable under braking.
“I wasn't really fit at the test and I didn't do a lot of laps but we did what we needed to and now we'll try and take advantage of that work.”
Stoner and Ducati team-mate Nicky Hayden tried a new set-up for the GP9 at Barcelona, the main benefit of which was to boost corner speed by putting more weight on the front.
“The weekend in Barcelona was really important for us,” said Ducati MotoGP boss Livio Suppo. “We started to see the fruit of all the hard work being done by Filippo and his guys, as well as Vitto [Guareschi, test rider] and it looks like the development route we're taking with the GP9 promises to make it even more competitive.
“We need to continue to give our maximum both to Casey, who is fighting in one of the closest championship battles for years, and to Nicky, who has shown that he has the ability to adapt to the characteristics of our bike, which is more difficult for him than it is for other riders because he had spent so many years on the same machine before this.
“Both Casey and Nicky like Assen so I'm sure they'll both be giving everything for a top result.”