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GP Week : Issue 37
Stoner: only racing will answer the wrist question CASEY Stoner’s dominant performance at both the pre- season test sessions – by almost a second in the second round at Qatar – masks the fact that the 2007 World Champion still has questions about the strength and endurance of his left wrist. Stoner complained of wrist pains in the first tests at Sepang in February, triggering strong rumours that he might require further treatment, and might possibly miss part or even all of the season. At the Qatar circuit in March he was rampant on lap times, and his team made light of the rumours. But the Australian has yet to complete a full race simulation or even extended endurance tests, and was still concerned about the injury. “The wrist has responded quite well,” he said. “It’s not as painful as it was at Sepang, even though the mobility still hasn’t improved much. “We’ll have to see how it feels at circuits with harder braking, and more left-hand corners, which is where I struggle the most.” Stoner’s problems started in the latter part of last season, when repairs to an old scaphoid fracture in his left wrist started to come adrift. He was able to complete the season, adding two more wins, but went under the surgeon’s knife directly after the last race. Arabian Nights see Stoner line drawn in sand THE second round of pre- season tests – cut back from five to three in response to the credit crunch – saw Casey Stoner and the radical new Ducati Desmosedici claim a demoralisingly large lap time advantage over the rest of the pack. Riding the new carbon- fibre framed bike with the addition of an experimental swing-arm in the same material, Stoner was 0.989 seconds faster than second-placed Jorge Lorenzo (Fiat Yamaha), who qualified on pole at Losail last year. Comfortingly for his rivals perhaps, conditions at the track were poor, with rain rendering the first of three floodlit night tests useless, and lap times relatively slow. Stoner’s 1’55.744 was six tenths off his own race record, and 1.8 seconds slower than Lorenzo’s pole time last year. Times were close behind Lorenzo, with Rossi third, then Chris Vermeulen’s Suzuki, and Nicky Hayden a pleasing fifth as he gets to grip with the Ducati. Hayden is concerned that the reduced practice time (cut by one-and-three-quarter hours each weekend) will make his position more difficult as he adapts to the new bike and the new tyres. Both Suzuki riders (Capirossi was sixth) had the same comment: that their new machine lacks straight- line speed. New factory Honda rider Dovizioso was eighth behind privateer de Puniet; but both Toseland (Tech 3 Yamaha) and Melandri (Hayate) were more than three seconds off the pace, placing 16th and 17th. 12