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Author: Sienna Wedes

Title: Casey Stoner shakes up the paddock with a fast lap time at the Sepang Test!

Casey Stoner was the fastest man on track during day one of the Sepang Test showing that even though the world champion is retired, he is focused on helping Ducati improve their bike and that he hasn’t lost his speed. He has confidence in the team and believes that the pros and cons are the foundations of improving the team, which will enable them to reach top results and bring them into contention for the championship. With his vast experience in the premier class, Casey Stoner is an asset to the Ducati manufacturer.

Q: How’d it feel to be fastest yesterday and show you’ve still got it?

Interesting! We got a few laps on everybody on Thursday but to be honest I think we got about 20 laps in before the weather hit us again and we didn’t get a lot of data. So, yesterday was very good for us to reconfirm everything. We got a nice long session through most of the day to reconfirm everything and most things we were doing too a bit of time to change the parts, so we had quite big gaps between each one. But, we definitely got very positive answers with the reasonably dry track, which is hard to find these days here. We’re quite happy and satisfied with the job we did but as with everybody else the weather really hampered our test program yesterday and as I was wasn’t testing today we literally didn’t get to test or finish a couple of things we needed to. Tomorrow hopefully will give us some better weather and data and we can continue where we left off and find some more positives to take from this test that we can hopefully produce for the next one.

Q: Can you tell us about the difference between this years and last year’s bike?

No wings, the biggest difference. We still need a little bit of time to find that balance for the bike without them because they did our down force and certain characteristics to the bike. We found some positives, negatives, everything pros and cons to it. But, we do need to have a little bit more time and data basically without wings because it’s been a few years now. There is a little bit more wheelie and a little bit more instability at high speeds, not a lot. But just a different character in the way the bike wants to ride and turn. I don’t even think we’ve touched where we can get to. We only just did a spring adaption to compensate to the lack of down force. We dropped a couple of spring rates etc. We pretty much left it there because we just needed a reasonably balanced bike to go on and compare chassis stiffness and versions of front and rear stiffness in the chassis.

Q: Is this a bigger problem in the bike than last year?  

I would say that the version of the chassis that came out mid-way last year it’s similar. I found a few improvements with the way it wants to exit the corner. A little more to my liking and it’s able to drive off the turn a little better. But, we haven’t done a lot of direct comparisons like I said with last years and this years. It’s mainly just been working forward rather than looking back. But, I haven’t found too many negatives other than us trying to minimize the effects since the winglets are gone. Haven’t really had too many issues with that, I just now that we can fine-tune it a little better and then there’s a few areas where I know we can improve quite a bit more.

Q: Are you sure the winglets are gone?

Ah, yes *laughs* at this moment.

Q: How can you help Jorge to understand the bike better?  

I don’t know if I can help him so much. It’s been a long time for him with one manufacturer, more than anybody else in this paddock other than Dani has been with one manufacturer for so long. So, it will take time for him to adapt and they are quite polar opposites I suppose in a lot of ways. With engine power and characteristics. So, he will take a little bit of time but speaking with him just then he was in quite good spirits to be honest and just taking things step by step. I suppose pushing each thing aside as he goes through it, as he changes, as he tries something and sees if he likes going that way or not, maybe the other way. It will take time and we have that before the first race. So, I am not too concerned at this point, I think we just need to let Jorge and Christian work together with the team and try and find that nice balance where he is comfortable.

Q: With your experience with Ducati over the last couple months, do you see yourself as a mentor for any of the riders?  

I wouldn’t really say mentor no. I think I am useful in the way that I may be able to find some things with the bike that many other test riders can’t. But, at the same time each rider is their own and there is a certain amount that you can help and teach and maybe show or suggest that they try. But, at the end of the day it’s very hard to convince someone that is already at this level and already this fast, you know how to do things differently and expect to tell them it’s going to be better so you have to do things delicately with that sort of situation. If somebody asks for a little bit then I am more than happy to give some of my knowledge.

Q: Do you have any kind of race plan for this year?

No, no race plan.

Q: How do you feel about the winglets, do you think it’s a loss?

I think they were good up until a certain point, even for me personally as riding. I found them very useful up until a certain point and then I found them to be somewhat controlling of the way you rode the bike. Especially at certain circuits they help massively with wheelie control and things like this. They made the bike stable in areas where I think any bike was going to be very stable. I think it helped everybody and seeing some of the things that other manufacturers maybe put on track shows maybe regret decisions to can them out. They definitely had their points of usefulness but at the same time this is the way we have been racing for years. We have had to stop electronic development because that was, in my opinion going too far and still too good. I’d still like to see it minimized but you know this is sort of what we have. So, it’s aspects like that. It’s one way we really do need to keep the industry going and moving forward and the other way is how far do we go. It’s a difficult debate.

Q: What’s the personal satisfaction been like developing the bike back into a race winner? How does it compare to winning on the bike?  

I probably just came in at the right time to be honest *laughs*. I can’t take credit for that; yes I believe I have given some very useful and important data to maybe then sort of direct. It was very nice to be here again when Ducati finally won again and winning twice in the season was fantastic and I honestly think we had more opportunities, it just didn’t come through. So, you know it’s been a really really nice transition back into Ducati I suppose and now especially I am a bit more comfortable with the bike and everything again. Don’t get a lot of testing so it takes a bit of time just to get back that sensation and so I feel like now I can get a little bit better data because I am a little bit more comfortable where we don’t need to be on track very long before I can give that good data. Whereas before I needed a few more laps just to sort of soak everything in again. It’s been a very very nice transition to be honest.

Q: Did you do any physical preparation for this test before hand?

I didn’t do one lap anywhere else so; it would be nice if I did. Takes a little bit of time sometimes to get use to it, but we have been to this track quite a lot, which helps. Although new surface and the new wet parts are interesting. But yeah, it does take me a little bit of time and I would normally like to be doing something just on a bike but to be honest in the last few months I have been ridiculously busy and I just haven’t ridden at bike at all in the last few months so it was interesting to come back out here. We train hard in very hot weather in the Gold Coast at the moment so it’s perfect conditions to come over here and made it easier for me.

Q: When you are off the bike for a period of time, is the feeling as natural when you hop back on it, do you get nervous?

No, not really. It’s back to work. It’s nice to be honest, as I said about the electronics, there’s still some sliding, and you still get to slide and sort of ride how I want to I suppose. The latest steps we are taking with Ducati have allowed me to turn the bike a little better on the throttle. That is something that I am really enjoying and I am able to search for grip and find it. After a lot of years, it’s not something that gives you a big adrenaline rush or kick, it’s sort of back to work basically.

Q: Do you think Jorge and Christian will work well together? Do you think they are correctly matched?

I am quite sure Christian can pretty much work with anyone anyway. Jorge has worked with a lot of people and has managed to work with them with a lot of different manufacturers, teams, engineers, everything so I have no doubt that they will find a way to communicate and understand each other. Christian already seems quite happy working with Jorge and his direction and his clarity and everything seems really really good. Everybody so far is quite happy.

Q: Do you think it’s possible for Ducati to win the championship?

I mean, you know without going out and testing every single bike it’s really impossible to say. It depends on so many different aspects. As you saw last year going by Marc’s results you wouldn’t have said he was going to win the championship but it’s just everybody else made mistakes and go a lot of DNF’s and things like this and he stayed consistent and consistently towards the front. He finished races when everybody else didn’t and won the championship. You know, start of last season you would have said Jorge was going to win the championship for sure by how fast he was here. So it could be polar opposites and quite different coming out of this test. You never can predict it too much. I am very confident in the package we have. If we can win one or two races I believe yeah there is more races for us to win out there and if you can win more races then you have every chance of winning a championship. It’s just all up to the rider and the team to put it together on the day. Each and every weekend trying to get there so, I am confident that if we can be first and second in the test, two of us on day one then there is more than enough hope for us to win a championship. 

Q: Vinales said he couldn’t understand why you are not racing when you are so fast, what can you say to that?

People said I was retiring because I lost my speed and that wasn’t the truth. I didn’t retire because I wasn’t fast enough and I am not interested in going back to racing. I see you all for short period and we get to enjoy each others company and then I get to go home *laughs*.

Credit: Patrick Wedes

Credit: Deborah Wedes

Credit: Patrick Wedes

Credit: Deborah Wedes

About The Author

Sienna Wedes
PR Communications

Sienna manages all FORMULA Magazine social media platforms covering news on a daily basis with higher emphasis during MotoGP rounds. She coordinates specific interviews with race engineers and chief mechanics. Growing up in a motorsport family Sienna understands the sport and what the supporters and fans enjoy.