Casey Stoner will begin his quest for a third successive home Australian Grand Prix victory from pole position at Phillip Island on Sunday, after emerging on top of qualifying by just 0.05sec over world champion Valentino Rossi.
It marked Stoner's second pole of a 'torrid' 2009 season, which saw him stuck down by sickness at round six in Catalunya, then struggle with fatigue at the following five rounds - prompting a three race break.
An impressive second on his return to action last time at Estoril, then first or second in the three track sessions at Phillip Island, means Stoner is increasingly confident that the mystery exhaustion has finally been beaten.
“We've had a torrid season. It's been a disaster and it's nice to come back at these two races and be competitive again - a lot more competitive than we've been all season,” said Stoner, who will race in a special livery on Sunday.
“It was hard having three races away and even harder having five uncompetitive races before then. It's very nice to be back and if we can get a few good results like in Portugal then we're gonna be happy.
“The more I'm getting back to full fitness the more we're realising that I've had this problem even longer than I thought,” he continued. “Definitely longer than Catalunya. We know I've had it all season when we think about how hard training was compared with what it used to be.
“We're starting to think it may have started last year, although nowhere near to the degree I had it this year. With the way I feel during training now, I'm hoping to be fitter and stronger than ever next year.”
But before then Stoner has three races in which to try and build on his two victories so far this season, and retake third in the championship from Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa, presently just three points in front.
“We've been fast in every session here and felt pretty good with the bike. We still need to make improvements for the race, but generally it's been handling quite well in the wet and the dry,” he said.