Ducati Marlboro Team rider Casey Stoner made his eagerly awaited return to competitive MotoGP action in Portugal today after missing the last three rounds through illness. The Australian completed a total of nineteen laps of the Estoril circuit, making three runs in total – his fastest time coming on his second run when he clocked a 1’37.966, fast enough for an impressive fourth position overall. Stoner took a short break before his final effort after struggling with arm pump but did not feel as comfortable with the modified set-up and was unable to improve his lap time.
Whilst Stoner used the new bodywork design on each of his Desmosedici GP9 machines today, with a carbon swingarm on one and an aluminium swingarm on the other, his team-mate Nicky Hayden experimented with the new fairing on one machine but was unable to really gauge its performance due to the unusually low winds here. He used the original fairing on his other bike, with both of them fitted with the carbon swingarm. The American made four runs but left it late to set his best time, which came on his penultimate lap of 27.
CASEY STONER (Ducati Marlboro Team) (4th; 1’37.966)
“So far so good. It was great to be back out there on the bike today and I really enjoyed myself. Physically I feel about as well as you could expect considering that I haven’t trained properly for almost four months now and I’m pleased with that. One thing I did struggle with was arm pump, which I expected, and I needed a bit of a rest in the later stages of the session. I expect the problem to ease over the weekend but I have to be careful not to push it too hard and exacerbate it further. We only did a couple of laps at the beginning but the riding position and brake levers weren’t quite right, so I had to come in and change that. After that we were competitive and making constant improvements, until my final run when we made quite a big change to the setting and it didn’t work out. If it wasn’t for that the lap time could have been better. We have different swingarms on the two bikes but I only tried the carbon one today, so I’d like to try the aluminium one tomorrow and see where we go from there. As far as the new fairing is concerned it was impossible to feel the difference today because it is designed to help the bike handle better in strong winds, which unusually for this circuit we didn’t have today, and fast direction changes, which there are none of here.”
NICKY HAYDEN – (Ducati Marlboro Team) (11th; 1’38.850)
“It wasn’t as good as we’d have liked it to be coming out of the gate – I’d thought the gap to the front would be closer than that today so we’ve got a lot of work to do. We need to make a general improvement everywhere – there’s not one part of the track holding me back, I just need to find a little bit more speed in every section. We tried the new cowling in one run but it was just to get a bit of data and get an idea. We still haven’t decided what way we’re going to go with that for the rest of the weekend. It’s still early but I would have liked to start out stronger and we need to pick it up a bit tomorrow. I also want to say congratulations to my chief mechanic “Bibo” (Davide Manfredi), whose wife just had a healthy baby boy.”