Casey Stoner believes Monday's test results at Sepang point to Ducati being in good shape ahead of the 2017 MotoGP season, and feels if riders Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso can win "one or two" races early on, a championship challenge cannot be discounted.

Now in his role as test rider for the Bologna factory, the Australian spectacularly topped the timesheets on Monday, with Dovizioso a place behind in second, earning Stoner plaudits from many in the paddock, and showing he still retains elite competitiveness despite a four-year absence from racing.

Unavailable to speak to the media on Monday, Stoner was present at the track a day later, and gave his thoughts on a host of issues, including the new bike, Jorge Lorenzo and the chances of him making a racing return.

Stoner will test again on Wednesday.

Question:
How did it feel to be fastest yesterday?
Casey Stoner:
Interesting! We got a few laps in everybody on Thursday [at private test], but to be honest not enough - we got about 20 laps in before the weather hit us again and we didn't get a lot of data. So yesterday was really good for us for us to reconfirm everything. We got a nice long session, through most of the day. Most of the things we were doing took a bit of time - to change the parts etc - so we had quite big gaps between each run, but we definitely got very positive answers with a reasonably dry track. Which is hard to find these days here! We're quite happy and satisfied with the job we did, but as for everybody else the weather really hampered our test programme yesterday as I wasn't testing today we didn't get to finish a couple of things that we needed to. Tomorrow hopefully will give us some better weather and better data and we can continue where we left off yesterday and find some more positives to take from this test.
Question:
What is the biggest difference between last year's bike and this year's bike?
Casey Stoner:
No wings, is the biggest difference. We still need a bit of time to find that balance with the bike without them, because they did add downforce and certain characteristics to the bike. We found some positives, negatives everything to it. But we do need a little bit more time and data without wings because it's been a few years now that the Ducati has had them.
Question:
Do you find it more unstable?
Casey Stoner:
There's a little bit more wheelieing, little more instability at high speeds - not a lot - but just a different character in the way the bike wants to ride in mid-turn etc and I don't think we've touched where we probably can get to. We literally just did a spring adaption to compensate for the lack of downforce, so we dropped a couple of spring rates etc. and we pretty much left it there, because we just needed a reasonably balanced bike to go and compare chassis stiffness and versions of front and rear stiffness in the chassis.
Question:
Is the new bike a big improvement from last year?
Casey Stoner:
I would say that the version of the chassis that came out midway through last year its similar. I found a few improvements with the way it wants to exit the corner, a little more to my liking; it's able to drive off the corner a little better. But we haven't done a lot of direct comparisons with last year's and this year's bike. It's mainly been working forward, rather than looking back. But I haven't found too many negatives, other than us trying to minimise the effects since the winglets have gone. But I haven't really had too many issues with that, I just know we can fine tune it all a little better. And then there's a few other areas where I know we can improve quite bit more.
Question:
Are you sure the winglets are gone?
Casey Stoner:
Yes, at this moment!
Question:
How can you help Jorge understand and adapt to this bike?
Casey Stoner:
I don't know if I can help him so much. It's been a long time for him with one manufacturer. He's been with one manufacturer more than anyone else in this paddock other than Dani. So it will take time for him to adapt. And [Yamaha and Ducati] are polar opposites in a lot of ways, with engine power and characteristics etc.

So it'll take a bit of time, but speaking with him just then he was in quite good spirts and just taking things step-by-step. I suppose pushing each thing aside as he changes and tries something, see if he likes going that way or not. Maybe the other way. It will take time and we have that before the first race. So I'm not too concerned at this point. I think we just need to let Jorge and Cristian [Gabarrini] work together with the team and try and find that nice balance where he is comfortable.
Question:
Do you see yourself as more of a mentor to the riders than a development rider?
Casey Stoner:
I wouldn't really say mentor, no. I think I'm useful in the way that I'm maybe able to find some things with the bike that many other test riders can't. But at the same time each rider is their own and there is a certain amount that you can help and teach and maybe show or suggest that they try. But at the end of the day it is very hard to convince someone that is already at this level and already this fast how to do things differently and expect to tell them that it's going to be better. You have to do things delicately with that sort of situation, but if someone asks I'm more than happy to give some of my knowledge.
Question:
Are there no plans to race this year?
Casey Stoner:
No. No race plan.

Question:
How do you feel about the winglets?

Casey Stoner:
I think they were good up to a certain point. Even for me when I was riding, I found them very useful up to a certain point, and then I found them to be somewhat controlling of the way you ride the bike. Especially for certain circuits, they help massively with wheelying and things like this, made the bike stable in areas where I don't think any bike was going to be stable. I think it helped everybody, and seeing some of the things other manufacturers have put on track goes to show that maybe they regret decisions to get the banned. So they definitely had their points of usefulness, but at the same time, this is the way racing has been for years. We've had to stop electronic development, because that was in my opinion going too far, and it's still too good, and I'd like to see it minimized. But this is what we have. So it's aspects like that, it's one way we really do need to keep the industry going and moving forward, and in one way, it's how far do we go? So it's a difficult debate.

Question:
Do you get a great deal of satisfaction from developing a race winning bike?

Casey Stoner:
I probably just came in at the right time, to be honest. I can't take credit for that. Yes, I believe that I've given some very useful and important data to help in that direction. But it was very nice to be here again when Ducati finally won again, and winning twice in a season was fantastic, and I honestly think we had more opportunities that just didn't come to fruition. It's been a really really nice transition back into Ducati. Now, especially I'm a bit more comfortable with the bike, I don't get much testing, so it takes a little bit of time just to get back that sensation. So I feel like now, I can give back even a bit better data, because I'm immediately more comfortable and we don't need to be on track very long before I can give that good data, whereas before I needed a few more laps just to soak everything in again. So it's been a very very nice transition to be honest.

Question:
Did you practice ahead of this test?

Casey Stoner:
I didn't do one lap anywhere else, so... It would have been nice if I did, but it takes a little bit of time to get used to it again sometimes, but we've been to this track quite a lot, which helps. Though the new surface and wet parts are ... interesting. But yes, it does take me a little bit of time, and I would normally want to be doing a bit of enduro or something just on a bike, but to be honest, the past few months I've been ridiculously busy and I haven't ridden a bike at all in the last few months. So it was interesting to come back out here. But we trained hard in very hot weather in the Gold Coast at the moment, so it was perfect conditions to come over here and made it easier for me.

Question:
Is riding still a job for you, or do you have a different approach now that you've been off the bike such a long time?

Casey Stoner:
No, not really. It's a job. To be honest, it's nice that the electronics have not advanced that far, there's still some sliding, I can still ride how I want, I suppose. The latest steps that we've made with the Ducati have allowed me to turn the bike a bit better on the throttle, and that's something I'm really enjoying again, I'm able to search for grip and find it. But yeah, after a lot of years, it's not something that gives you a big adrenaline rush or a kick, it's back to work basically.

Question:
Do you think Jorge & Cristian Gabarrini [Lorenzo's crew chief] are good together?

Casey Stoner:
I'm quite sure Cristian can work with anyone anyway, and Jorge has worked with a lot of people and managed to work and win with a lot of different teams, manufacturers, everything. So I have no doubt they will find a way to work together and communicate, but Cristian already seems quite happy working with Jorge and his direction and his clarity, and everything seems really really good. Everybody so far is quite happy.

Question:
Are they also suited in terms of personality?

Casey Stoner:
Yes.

Question:
Can Jorge win a title with this Ducati?

Casey Stoner:
Without going out testing every single bike, it's really impossible to say. It depends on so many different aspects. As you saw last year, going by Marc's results, you wouldn't have said he was going to win the championship, but it's just everybody else made mistakes and got a lot of DNFs, and he stayed consistent and consistently towards the front. He finished races when everybody else didn't, and won the championship. But at the start of last season, you would have said that Jorge was going to win the championship for sure by how fast he was here, so it could be polar opposites and quite different coming out of this test. You never can predict it too much, but I'm very confident in the package we have. If we can win one or two races, I believe there are more races for us to win out there, and if you can win more races, then you have every chance of winning a championship. So it's just up to the rider and the team to put it all together on the day, each and every weekend, to try to get there. But if two of us can be first and second in the test yesterday, then there's more than enough hope for us to win a championship.

Question:
Vi?ales said he can't understand why you're not racing if you're so fast...

Casey Stoner:
People said I was retiring just because I'd lost my speed, and that wasn't the truth. I didn't retire because I wasn't fast enough. I'm not interested in going back to racing, I see you all for short periods, and we get to enjoy each other's company, and then I get to go home, so it's great!

Comments

Loading Comments...