Title on line for Stoner in Oz
HOME ADVANTAGE: Casey Stoner could wrap-up the 2011 title at the Phillip Island MotoGP.
Author: Torsten Blackwood
Casey Stoner could celebrate his second MotoGP championship on his favourite track if he can extend his fairy-tale run on Phillip Island.
The Honda rider has won his home GP four years in a row; another could wrap up the title with two races left if closest rival and reigning champion Jorge Lorenzo finishes fourth or worse. If Lorenzo fails to finish on the picturesque oceanside track 140km south of Melbourne, Stoner will only have to come sixth to be make champion.
Stoner said he had enjoyed a love affair with Phillip Island since graduating to the top tier of motorcycle racing. "Ever since I've been on the big bikes I've just gelled with PI (Phillip Island)," he said. "I think that with the speed (of the bigger bikes) I can go through some of the corners faster than other riders and that gives me my edge."
His affinity with the course leaves him well placed to reclaim the World title; it's four years since his maiden title achieved with Ducati.
'TOO LATE' FOR LORENZO
"Winning at PI definitely feels a lot sweeter and at the end of the race, when you get up on the podium in front of the home crowd, you know every body is proud of you and that you have won for Australia," Stoner said. "I look forward to racing at Phillip Island every year - it's one of the few tracks I really enjoy.
Whether he can clinch it in Australia or not, the title looks like a formality for Stoner whose 40-point lead in the standings prompted Lorenzo to all but concede his crown. "It's too late," he said. "Even if I win the last three races, including Australia, it still doesn't give me the World title.
"Casey must finish further back than second in each race and in my mind I don't see this situation unless there is something strange. Maybe I can win some races but I can't see three, it is too late with the bike we have."
Italian Andrea Dovizioso said he was hoping to hold off Stoner’s team mate Dani Pedroso and retain third on the championship table. "My target this time is to return to the podium and gain some points to retain third in the championship," he said. "Phillip Island is a demanding track and in the past I have struggled quite a lot. The real issues are the weather, the strong wind, rain, and cold have often complicated the race."
The Moto2 class remains the tightest of the three MotoGP weekend categories.
Spain's Marc Marquez took the championship lead for the first time this season with second Japan and he now leads German Stefan Bradl by one point.
Frenchman Johann Zarco will continue his pursuit of championship leader Nico Terol of Spain.
Zarco, who celebrated his debut win in Japan, is 31 points down.