When Casey Stoner was asked on Thursday about the key to his speed through Turn 3 - now renamed Stoner Corner in his honor - he refused to answer, saying only that he might tell everyone after he had retired. To anyone watching Stoner scorch around that corner and the rest of the track, the secret was plain to see: the Australian is completely in his element, totally comfortable and confident in every move he makes at the circuit. Stoner left thick black lines round most of the left handers at the circuit, including daubing them all over the inside of the kerbs at Turn 3. It was a display of mastery that left even the injured Ben Spies in awe, watching at home on the computer. "I gotta say without a doubt Casey Stoner does stuff even GP racers watch and scratch their head at!" Spies posted on his Twitter page. Stoner ended nine tenths of a second up on second-place man Dani Pedrosa, the only man to dip into the 1'29s (just, his fastest lap being 1'29.999), and the only man bar Pedrosa to hit the 1'30s.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and the single tire supplier after the first day of practice for the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island:
This weekend's Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island is going to be a very Australian affair, more so than most other years. For one obvious reason: this is the last chance to see Casey Stoner race a Grand Prix motorcycle at the iconic venue before he hangs up his helmet and retires from MotoGP. Record crowds are expected, and local media coverage is expanded as everyone gathers to say goodbye to the latest in a long and honorable line of Australian Grand Prix champions who have left an indelible mark on motorcycle racing.
The weekend started off with Stoner's name being added to those of Wayne Gardner and Mick Doohan, in a ceremony to rename Turn 3 Stoner Corner. Gardner's name has been given to the front straight, Doohan's to Turn 1, and Stoner's name follows after the Southern Loop. It is a fitting tribute to the man who has started from pole four times in a row, won here five times in a row and achieved some remarkable feats in MotoGP.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and the single tire supplier ahead of this weekend's Australian MotoGP round at Phillip Island:
In the week ahead of Casey Stoner's final race at his home circuit - in MotoGP, at least, though the chances of seeing the Australian at Phillip Island in a V8 Supercar in the next few years are strong - the Repsol Media Service issued a fascinating video in which the 2011 World Champion goes over his motorcycle racing career (and his hobby, fishing) using a few old photographs. The video sees Stoner talk about his path to international racing, his reasons for leaving Australia to race in Europe, and the loss of his trophies to termites. Stoner also talks about his 2011 championship - though, unsurprisingly given that the video was produced by Repsol, there is no mention of his 2007 title - and his joy and surprise at being able to wrap it up at home, and on his 26th birthday.
The Phillip Island circuit is to name Turn 3 after Casey Stoner. A ceremony is to be held on Thursday at 11:45am local time to name the corner in honor of the 2007 and 2011 World Champion. Stoner joins Mick Doohan and Wayne Gardner, Australia's other two premier class World Champions, in have a part of the iconic Australian circuit named after him. Doohan has the first corner named after him, and the front straight running past the pits and into Doohan corner is named after Gardner.
It is fitting that Stoner should have Turn 3 named after him. The Australian has consistently named that corner as one of his favorite corners on the MotoGP calendar. It has everything which Stoner believes are the ingredients of an exciting turn: it is very fast, long, and the more courage you use in attacking the corner, the faster you go through there. It is a corner where Stoner slides the rear to help turn the bike, a skill at which he excels.
The Grand Prix Circus came to Sepang with three titles in the balance. Only one of them got wrapped up on Sunday, though, tropical rainstorms throwing a spanner into the works of the other two, but generating some fascinating racing. The fans had one fantastic dry race, one fantastic wet race, and a processional MotoGP race that looked much the same as it would have had it been dry. There was a packed house - over 77,000 people crowded into the circuit, a highly respectable number for a flyaway round - cheering on local heroes, there was confusion over the rules, and there were a lot of new faces on the podium. There was also a much better balance of nationalities on the podium: where in previous races, the Spanish national anthem has been played three times on a Sunday, at Sepang, it was only heard once. Most of all, though, the Moto2 and MotoGP races ran in the wet would be determined by the timing of the red flags, with Race Direction's decisions on safety also having an outcome on the results of the races, and in the case of MotoGP, possibly implications for the championship.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and the single tire supplier after Sunday's race at Sepang:
First victory for Pedrosa in the wet