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GP Week : Issue 137
CASEY Stoner goes home to Australia with high hopes of a fifth Phillip Island win in a row. But his chances of wrapping up the title with that win are less certain. Third at Motegi after running off the track cost him nine points, and extended rival Jorge Lorenzo’s chances mathematical chances by one more race. Even if Lorenzo is only third in Australia, Stoner’s margin will be one point shy of the 50 needed. But his home GP history points to a dominant performance, albeit all on the Ducati: “It’s one of my all-time favourite circuits,” he said. In fact he has no extra experience there over his GP rivals, having left Australia for Europe because he was too young to get a road-racing licence. The Repsol Honda rider has already broken MotoGP-class records with 14 consecutive podium finishes. With eight wins this season and three races remaining, he could also equal Rossi’s 11 wins per season, though Mick Doohan’s 12 remains out of reach. It would take something (as Lorenzo puts it) “very strange” for the premier-class title not to fall to Stoner, even if not at home in Australia, on the day he turns 26. Honours remain in the balance in the other classes – especially Moto2, where the rampant Marc Marquez took a lead of just one point over early runaway favourite Stefan Bradl. The German has not won a race in the last eight; while Marquez has taken six of his seven wins in the same time. The next-closest, Andrea Iannone, is a full 78 points adrift, with only 75 on the table. It’s not as close but still marginal in 125s. Nico Terol leads Johan Zarco by 31 points, but even if Terol wins and Zarco does not finish, he will be five points shy of the 50 he needs. By contrast, Zarco has been gaining strength, and a single non-finish by Terol would put the final result in doubt until the final race. Moto GP news >> ANDREA Dovizioso’s turnabout leaves a vacant spot in the LCR team. Alvaro Bautista and former teamster Randy de Puniet are still on the list, but an intriguing third-man scenario has arisen with the possibility that come- back racer John Hopkins might take the slot. Former Suzuki factory rider Hopkins is well into a come-back year after his career slumped with a series of bad injuries and personal problems. Riding a Suzuki in the high-level British Superbike series, Hopkins will make a third wild card appearance on the Rizla Suzuki at Malaysia. But hopes of rejoining the factory team are clouded with uncertainty, with Suzuki yet to confirm or deny their participation in 2012. Yesterday, Hopkins failed by inches to claim the BSB title at Brands Hatch in a battle that went to the last corner. The only question mark is about the level of the bike. While HRC had offered a factory-spec bike to LCR, this was linked with Dovizioso. Whichever of the three riders takes the berth, it is unlikely to be on a factory-level machine. Hell-and-Back Hopkins is Honda’s new target Musical saddles – Part two Rossi’s finger scuppers last-chance Ducati test Stoner chases five-in-a-row at home Title number two may have to wait 17