2007 world champion Casey Stoner will, as planned, return to MotoGP action at this weekend's Estoril round, following a three-race absence due to mystery fatigue problems.

After an impressive opening five rounds, which saw Stoner leading the world championship with two race wins, the Ducati star struggled with sickness at Barcelona (round six) and then fatigue at the next four races.

Tests proved inconclusive and, after returning home to Australia for further medical advice during the summer break, it was announced that Stoner would miss the next three rounds to try and recover.

Doctors now believe that low blood pressure and a lack of sodium were behind Stoner's problems, with overtraining and past injuries also a factor.

'During two months away from racing under the supervision of an expert medical team in his homeland... Casey has undergone a series of exams and special tests," said a Ducati statement confirming Stoner's return to action.

'The results of the tests have excluded pathological anomalies of cardiovascular, respiratory or neurological origins. The exams and inspections also failed to show up any kind of virus or infection.

'However, the medical report made by Prof. Silderberg [Cardiologist] and Dr Coleman [Consultant Physician] did reveal low blood pressure levels and a lack of sodium, the two factors that the doctors believe were the main cause of the physical problems that interrupted the season for the Ducati rider.

'The doctors all agree that overtraining was the most common factor that showed up during the tests and that the after-effects of injuries and surgeries over the last few years were the cause of the physical weakness and exhaustion that the Australian began to suffer a few months ago.

'The doctors also unanimously confirmed that their suggestion to stop Casey from racing at the end of July was absolutely necessary in order to avoid aggravating his physical debilitation.

'Following the final medical examination that he underwent last week before leaving Australia, the doctors confirmed that whilst he was still not completely recovered, he is in better physical shape than he was in July and his weight is back up to 60kg, which is close to his ideal weight.

'Casey will be back on track this weekend despite not being in peak condition and he will remain under medical supervision throughout, with a new sodium-rich diet aimed at raising his blood pressure and muscular functionality.'

Despite surrendering a potential 75 points, Stoner will start the final four rounds of the 2009 season just seven points behind third in the championship Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda).

"I'm definitely looking forward to the race weekend," said Stoner. "Having three races off is the biggest period away from racing in my life. It was very difficult to accept the advice of the doctors to stop racing.

"In the past I have raced even when injured, like in the last few races of the 2008 season when my wrist was broken, but this time it was really not possible and of course I felt very sorry for the team.

"Now I'm looking forward to getting back together with the team and everyone and I hope I'll be able to be more competitive than I was in the past, but we will have to wait and see.

"The doctors have put me on some salt tablets to increase my sodium levels but we will have to see if it helps. We will understand more during the weekend. Of course it's going to be difficult: at first we won't know if it will work because I've been off the bike so long that in any case my muscles will take some time to get race fit again.

"But, as I said, I'm looking forward to getting back and to starting work on the bike, looking towards the future," he concluded.

Stoner had always planned to return at the Portuguese event, but Ducati's (failed) attempts to sign Jorge Lorenzo and then Dani Pedrosa during his absence fuelled rumours that Stoner might not return until 2010, had fallen out with the team or even that he had lost interest in MotoGP and might retire at the age of 23.

All such rumours were denied and Ducati MotoGP project director Livio Suppo insists Stoner's Estoril return was never in doubt.

"We are really pleased that Casey is back with us," began Suppo. "We never had any doubt that he would be with us once again at Estoril.

"We know that he is still not in 100% peak fitness and we just hope that over the last four races of the season he can gradually build his strength and work with Nicky to help Filippo [Preziosi] develop the bike.

"With that goal in mind we have a few new things to try this weekend, in particular a new fairing which is designed to make the bike handle better in strong winds and fast direction changes."

Ducati's best result without Stoner was a third place by factory team-mate Nicky Hayden at Indianapolis. Stoner's temporary replacement, Mika Kallio, claimed a best finish of seventh.

Stoner is the only Ducati rider to win a dry MotoGP race since the start of the 800cc era in 2007. The only other 800cc Desmosedici victory was a wet/dry bike-swap win by Loris Capirossi in the first season of the new engine capacity.

During 38 MotoGP starts for Ducati, Stoner has taken 18 wins, 30 podiums, 15 pole positions and 17 fastest laps. Valentino Rossi is now the top 800cc race winner with 19 wins.

The next best Ducati rider after Stoner in the 2009 standings is Hayden, in 14th position.


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