Casey Stoner backed up his best ever MotoGP qualifying performance at Jerez with his best ever result in any class here today, sealing third place at his bogey circuit with a superb performance.
The Ducati Marlboro rider got an ideal start from third on
the grid, chasing early leader and home favourite Dani Pedrosa over the opening five laps before conceding a position to Valentino Rossi.
Stoner fought back and passed Rossi into the first turn of the following lap but the Italian quickly responded and opened up sufficient breathing space to defend a similar attack next time around. From that point Stoner settled into third place, withstanding increasing pressure from Jorge Lorenzo in the closing stages to the point that the Spaniard crashed out with four laps remaining, such was the desperation of his pursuit.
"After all these years this is my first time on the podium at Jerez so it has been a long time coming – I've had plenty of opportunities in the past but I've been unlucky and made mistakes, so this tastes really sweet. Today I wasn't nervous about the race at all because to be honest I went into it thinking that I didn't have a chance of finishing on the podium. We knew Dani, Valentino and Jorge all had a better pace than us so we took a bit of a gamble with the setting to try and find an extra edge and it paid off, so I have to thank the team for that”, he said. “I got a great start and I was running right up there with Dani in the early stages but I started to lose the front in a few corners. When Valentino came I tried to hold him off as best as I could but when he came past me the second time I decided to try and stay behind him, to see if he could take me with him to Dani. Unfortunately from that point I was losing the front even more often and there was one place in particular where I was almost crashing every lap. When Jorge started to close in I honestly thought it was ‘game over' but I kept pushing to try and at least take the battle to the final laps.
It was just getting to the point where I was going to have to back off because I was risking a crash, but Jorge solved that problem for me! I couldn't believe my luck but I think we deserved it though because the whole team has worked incredibly hard all weekend and I could not have given more in the race. It is only third place but it feels even better than the win in Qatar."
The flip side of the coin for the team was another difficult day for Nicky Hayden, who has struggled all weekend to find a good set-up, hindered by his physical condition after heavy crashes in each of the opening two rounds. The American also battled bravely, however, to pick up a solitary point in 15th place.
“I was nervous that physically it would be a tough race but it turned out to be a lot worse than we expected”, he admitted. “In the beginning I struggled a lot again with a full fuel load and I made a mistake on the first lap – I was trying to make some positions up and I actually lost some. I tried to recover but something was wrong with the set-up of the bike. I can't make the harder compound work well with my bike and I have to go with the softer one but today even those didn't start to work well until I got a lot of heat into them. I did my best time on the seventeenth lap so there is something we have definitely to work on with the team. We need to look at the data and think up something different for the next one.”