With his 2008 title hopes all but over after falling from his Ducati at the last three races, reigning MotoGP world champion Casey Stoner is aiming to try and enjoy the final five rounds of the season - starting at this weekend's inaugural Indianapolis Grand Prix.

Stoner has shown impeccable qualifying form ever since June's Catalan Grand Prix, taking seven consecutive pole positions, but dropped his Desmosedici after unexpected opposition from Valentino Rossi at Laguna Seca - and has fallen whilst trying to stay ahead of the Italian at the two rounds since.

Those mistakes have seen Stoner plummet from 20 points behind Rossi heading into the US GP, to 75 points behind as MotoGP returns to the America for its much-anticipated Indy debut.

With a maximum of 125 points still to be claimed, Stoner's title hopes have been downgraded to 'miracle' status, whilst the four time 2008 race winner is left looking for something other than speed to put him back on top of the podium.

"Obviously I'm not happy with the results of the last few races," said Stoner. "We have proved that we are consistently fast but that clearly isn't enough. I know that I have got the support of a great team and a bike I have a great feeling with. I'm going to try to enjoy riding it over the final few races, which all take place at circuits I like a lot.

"I can't wait to go back to America and race at Indianapolis, a circuit nobody knows but where I am sure our bike and tyres will work just as well as they have done at the last few races," he insisted.

Many believe Rossi's presence has pressured Stoner into making mistakes, and it is hard to believe that Rossi's proximity to Stoner at the time of his accidents - one place in front at Laguna and one place behind at both Brno and Misano - has been a coincidence.

Nevertheless, the #1 also has problems of a more physical nature, with an old scaphoid injury having been re-opened, forcing a painful end to the season.

"I also have to think about the scaphoid that we thought had healed back in 2003 but is still giving me problems. For the time being I have to deal with it but we're talking to the doctors about what to do with it in the future," said Stoner.

Ducati MotoGP project director Livio Suppo revealed more:

"We're hoping that the problems [Casey] had with his wrist at Misano don't prevent him from riding at his maximum this weekend," said the Italian. "Casey underwent a CAT scan last week, which showed that the scaphoid he fractured and had operated on back in 2003 has never completely healed. With the support of a pool of doctors over the next few weeks, Casey will decide if another operation is going to be necessary."

Nevertheless, Suppo still backs his rider for Indy success.

"Casey has an incredible ability to adapt to new things so I think he can do really well on a circuit that is unknown to everybody," he declared.

Having had problems adapting to his Ducati at the conventional grand prix tracks, Stoner's team-mate Marco Melandri might well see the quirky Indy road circuit as an welcome opportunity - although he's expecting it to be a little tricky, and perhaps even dangerous.

"I'm really happy to be going to Indy because it is a new circuit for everybody and America is a country I love, where I always feel comfortable. Indianapolis is in a part of the United States that I've never visited so I'm also excited about that. Having said that I think it's going to be a challenging race for a variety of reasons," began Marco.

"For example they say that the grip levels change a lot over the course of the lap and that makes it tricky. I've also heard the layout is a little dangerous but until we get there and get chance to have a look at it in person there's no point making guesses.

"Personally I feel motivated because we've made progress over the last few rounds and improved my feeling with the bike over the first few laps of a race. I hope I can qualify well and start a little higher up the grid," he concluded.

Circuit organisers are predicting weekend crowds of over 150,000, amongst which will be Ducatisti representing the 60 Ducati Clubs across America.



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