Casey Stoner fought through the pain barrier to finish the Malaysian Grand Prix today, 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.
Despite that he chased Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden hard for the final podium position but faded towards the end and eventually conceded fifth place to Shinya Nakano.
Marco Melandri paid the price for an unproductive weekend working on his set-up and the Italian could finish no higher than sixteenth today.
CASEY STONER (Ducati Marlboro Team) 6th
"I had no feeling whatsoever from my injured hand today, it just wasn't working. 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."
MARCO MELANDRI (Ducati Marlboro Team) 16th
"There are only negatives to take out of a race like that. 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."
LIVIO SUPPO (Ducati MotoGP Project Director)
"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. 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. It has been another difficult weekend for Marco but we still hope he can finish the season with a smile at Valencia."