Casey Stoner fought through the pain barrier just to finish Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix, where sixth place in suffocating conditions was enough to seal the runner-up spot in the 2008 MotoGP world championship with a round to spare.

With some of the hottest, most humid conditions the MotoGP circus has ever had to suffer at Sepang and his physical condition still a long way from perfect, the Australian struggled throughout the race with cramps in his right hand - caused by the excessive forced required to compensate for the scaphoid injury to his left wrist.

Despite that he remained in touch with Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden, in third an fourth positions, for much of the race - but faded towards the end and eventually conceded fifth to Shinya Nakano on lap 16 of 21.

"I had no feeling whatsoever from my injured hand today, it just wasn't working," a red-faced Stoner revealed afterwards. "It meant I had to put all the pressure on to my right hand and in such physically demanding conditions it was really difficult. It started cramping up and I couldn't even get the throttle fully open down the straights.

"To be honest I don't think we quite found a perfect set-up this weekend but I can't complain about that because I wasn't able to push the bike to the limit today. It's been a tough weekend and we have another one coming up at Valencia, which we will push hard to get through with as good a result as possible before finally looking ahead to the operation.

"At least we have the runner-up spot already in the bag, which is an achievement I think myself and the whole team can look back on and be very proud of," he concluded.

Ducati MotoGP project director Livio Suppo described Stoner's performance as brave ride - and appreciates the pain the 2007 world champion is going through by delaying his 'career saving' left wrist operation until after the Valencia post-race test.

"We haven't been unable to maintain our great tradition here at Sepang but Casey rode in really difficult conditions today and he was brave to even finish the race," said the Italian. "We know he's going through the pain barrier just to test the GP9 after the race at Valencia and we really appreciate that. The positive thing today was that Casey made sure of second in the championship and that is still a prestigious result in a category with so many strong rivals."

The second factory Ducati of Marco Melandri was left in a miserable 16th position.

"There are only negatives to take out of a race like that," said the 2009 Kawasaki rider. "We went back to the settings we used yesterday afternoon but I didn't have the same feeling. I had hardly any feeling with the front from the first few laps and I couldn't brake hard into the corners.

"From then on things just got worse. I went for a softer rear tyre so the grip was good at the start but I almost crashed a couple of times in the fast corners in the second half of the race and that took away any shred of confidence I had left," he admitted.

"It has been another difficult weekend for Marco but we still hope he can finish the season with a smile at Valencia," said Suppo.

The 18th and final round of the 2008 MotoGP World Championship takes place next weekend.

 

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