The Ducati Marlboro Team celebrated the return of Casey Stoner with podium champagne in Portugal today as the Australian guided his GP9 back to the podium with a stunning second place.
Stoner was back to riding in his style, fast, over all 28 laps of the Estoril race, with
only eventual race winner Jorge Lorenzo able to better him.
At the chequered flag Stoner showed no signs of the symptoms that had dogged him for several rounds before his enforced break from action, although he was understandably tired after a full MotoGP race, following two months of inactivity.
“It is great to be competitive again and to stay that way right to the end of the race”, he said. “I maybe could have been faster over the opening few laps but I made a little mistake, which caused my foot to slip off the peg. It broke the footrest support and it was moving around in all the right-handers, so my foot was slipping off. As the laps went by I was able to alter the footpeg position a little but I wasn't able to go any faster. Obviously Jorge was too fast for us today and he did a fantastic job but I'm still really happy today for myself and for the team.”
“ It is brilliant to come back like this and I think it shows that the decision to take a break and tackle a physical problem that was really making it impossible for us, was the right choice. Like I said I'm happy for the team because it has also been a difficult period for them. My relationship with Ducati, built over the past three years, has always been strong and solid”, he added. “Now I'll try and start training a little before the next race because over the last few months my physical condition has suffered and I need to try and get some muscle back. The target for the next few races is for myself and the team to prepare as well as we can for next season.
Nicky Hayden made a good start to the race but he was unable to capitalise on an encouraging performance in this morning's warm-up as he eventually crossed the line in eighth place after struggling somewhat for grip.
“After the morning warm-up I was expecting a little more today but I just didn't feel like I had the traction I'd had for most of the weekend. The bike was moving around a lot under acceleration and it was hard to get out of the corners. We made good progress throughout the weekend and like I said this morning felt quite good but the afternoon was really warm and maybe that affected us too much”, he commented. “I got a decent start and moved up a few places but a lot of guys were able to pass me on the front straightaway and I'm not really sure why the bike didn't feel fast as usual. Nevertheless we learnt a lot this weekend and got some good data. I'd hoped for more but eighth is the best we could do. It's not for a lack of effort or hard work but sometimes that's not good enough. Hopefully we can do better at Phillip Island.”