Crash.Net MotoGP News
Stoner misses Motegi press conference
29 September 2011
The Japanese MotoGP at Motegi, an event the majority of riders had been reluctant to attend due to radiation fears, began with the pre-event press conference on Thursday.
Championship leader Casey Stoner was scheduled to be present at the press conference, but the Repsol Honda rider was unable to make it due to problems with the late arrival of his flight. Honda wild-card Shinichi Itoh took Stoner's place.
The other four riders who took questions from the media were Valentino Rossi, Hiroshi Aoyama, Álvaro Bautista and Jorge Lorenzo.
"Where is Casey?" smiled Jorge Lorenzo, who had been moved to the centre chair where the title leader normally sits. "Am I leading the championship now?" he joked.
The Yamaha star, who is currently 44 points behind Stoner with four rounds remaining, later sized up this weekend's task:
”Casey has won so many races and has finished on the podium more than any other rider, so it's normal he has so many points. Maybe it's too late to fight with him for the Championship, but anyway there are still four races to go, 100 points to be taken, so you never know. You have to give everything and anything is possible. We must fight for the win in every race.”
Lorenzo, who finished fourth at Motegi last year and won the MotoGP race here in 2009, anticipates a tough race this weekend: “Normally it's a difficult track for us because it has a lot of acceleration points and a lot of big straights, but we come here motivated to fight for the win and we will see.”
Rossi lies sixth in the standings at the moment as he and his Ducati Team continue working away on the Desmosedici GP11.1.
The Italian has stood on the podium nine times in the premier class at Motegi, including third place last year following a bitter battle with then team-mate Lorenzo, and would dearly love a turnaround in his 2011 fortunes this weekend.
He will ride the same configuration machine as he rolled out at Aragón, where the GP11.1 incorporated a new aluminium element in the front chassis section.
“It's the same specification with the same modification we already tried at Aragón,” said Rossi of the bike. “Unfortunately there we struggled with rear grip and I destroyed the tyre towards the end [of the race]. Here it will be very different, we have to understand the condition of the track.”
He continued: “We come from a very bad GP in Aragón, the result was of course not what we would have expected, but even last year at Aragón I was in trouble. Last year here at Motegi was a good race and a good result, I was on the podium and not so far from the victory, so I hope to take the same step with Ducati and to improve.”
Following the Aragón round Rossi tested the latest version of the developing 2012 Desmosedici, and commented: “We tested at Jerez after the Aragón race, and we have some data with which to work for the 2012 Ducati bike, so we'll try to understand as much as possible during this season.”
Round 15 provides Aoyama with his much anticipated home race and the San Carlo Honda Gresini rider is determined to deliver something special for the crowd at a track where he was twice a 250cc race winner.
“I want to say thanks to those who came here to race because it was, I think, a hard decision and it means a lot for Japanese motorcycle fans,” he started. “Personally this is my home race and for sure it's very important.
"Last year I was injured and couldn't perform as I would have liked, and this year after Assen I was also injured and suffered a lot on the bike, but now I'm much better and feel good on the bike and I hope this time I can perform much better than last year. My best result so far this year is fourth place at Jerez and I want to better that here.”
Discussing the area he will target for improvement in the lead up to Sunday's race, Aoyama added: “I always struggle at the beginning of the race because I can't push the tyre enough, but from mid to end of the race I have a good rhythm, so the target is to improve in the first part of the race.”
Bautista has also tasted victory in the former 250cc class at Motegi and the Rizla Suzuki rider is keen to convert his recent good form into another solid result on the GSV-R after a recent run of impressive displays.
“We have had good results and have been consistent in the last few races, and our target here is to continue in the same way and be closer to the second group like Dovizioso, Spies and Simoncelli. We are working very well and we'll try to get off to a good start on Friday and have a good set-up ready for the race,” he said.
Bautista continued: “Last year I had a good race here and finished seventh, this year I think we're more competitive and have more confidence in the bike. It's a good track for Suzuki and I hope to get a good result here.”
Itoh was the final man to speak and the HRC test rider, who will be on board an RC212V as a wild card under the Honda Racing Team banner this weekend, outlined the significance of being able to ride in the Grand Prix of Japan.
“After what happened in March, it feels like a dream to be here racing this weekend,” he said. “First I would like to thank Honda and all my sponsors for this opportunity. This weekend I will do my best and I can represent and give some hope to all those who have been, and still are, suffering from the tragedy that happened back in March. This track is one of my favourites so I'll try my best but also make sure I don't get in the way of the regular riders.”
Countryman Kousuke Akiyoshi will also ride as a wild-card for the LCR Honda team, alongside Toni Elias, while Australia Damian Cudlin is replacing the injured Loris Capirossi at Pramac Ducati.
The Japanese MotoGP was due to take place in April, but was rescheduled following the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck the country in March.