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GP Week : Issue 159
The next three weeks of intensive action –with consecutive races at Assen, the Sachsenring and Mugello – could determine the shape of the championship, as the season goes from one-third to one half finished while barely drawing breath. Back-to-back races are always a trial, especially for any rider still struggling to find the right machine balance and settings. This is bad news for Ducati, preparing for the Italian company’s home race at its testing circuit, but no surprise, given the struggles of Rossi and to a lesser extent Hayden. More significant is the position of defending champion Casey Stoner. Currently lagging by 25 points, with two wins to Yamaha rival Jorge Lorenzo’s four, Stoner has both technical and personal issues that remain unsolved. The Spaniard by comparison is riding high. “I think we have made a perfect season so far,” he said after taking win number four at Silverstone. Stoner’s technical issues are two-fold and related, and could cost him dear. The first is the propensity the factory Repsol Hondas have shown to promote tyre chatter. The second is the new Bridgestone “33” soft-construction front tyre, which became the only one available at the last round at Silverstone. Both factory Honda riders Stoner and Pedrosa have complained that the tyre does not suit the RC213V, not only leading to instability under braking but also adding front-end chatter to that already existing at the rear. Casey’s physical problem is the threat of a return of the arm-pump that spoiled his first race and has played up at several races since then. Rain at many circuits has helped, since “there’s less physical effort involved” . But both Assen and especially the Sachsenring are intensely physical circuits, and the problem tends to have a cumulative effect. With no chance to rest and recover between races, the fear of a return will be nagging in Stoner’s mind. Lorenzo has a cushion of one race with his 25 point lead, while after six races last season eventual champion Stoner’s points lead was only 18. But Lorenzo’s team chief Wilco Zeelenberg pointed out: “That was after Stoner had been knocked off and scored zero points at Jerez. It’s still much too early to think about the championship.” THREE-IN-A-ROW PIVOTAL TEST FOR CHAMPIONSHIP 10 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: MOTOGP >>> NEWS