Stoner to set tone at Catalunya?
GOING FOR BLACK AND WHITE: Casey Stoner took the chequered flag at the MotoGP's last outing at Catalunya in 2011.
BARCELONA, Spain - Casey Stoner may be retiring at the end of the season but the Australian's appetite to lift a third world title is - if anything - greater than it has ever been.
Stoner goes into Sunday's latest leg of the season, the Catalunya Grand Prix, bidding to repeat his wins at the Montmelo circuit in 2007 and 2011 - coincidentally, the years he went on to be crowned motorcycling world champion.
Explained Stoner: "Catalunya is one of my favourite races and it was the first major grand prix circuit I tested on.
'IN LOVE' WITH CATALUNYA
"Ever since that moment I fell in love with the track, the big fast sweeping corners; there's a lot of control in the middle of the turn trying to get grip for the exit.
"We know the Honda works well here and we had a good race here last year. I just hope this weekend will be dry."
He goes into this fifth race of the season placed second in the rider's standings on 82 points, eight behind Jorge Lorenzo, who lines up on the back of his win at Le Mans last time out, where Stoner took third behind runner-up Valentino Rossi.
"I am going to continue to give 100% of my capabilities and even more in the remaining races," Stoner said.
Aside from Lorenzo, one of Stoner's main rivals on Sunday will be his Honda team mate and local hope Dani Pedrosa, who missed the 2011 race due to injury.
"Montmelo is a difficult circuit for the bikes and the tyres but it's always a great race," Pedrosa told a press conference here on Thursday.
A winner here in all three categories, Pedrosa is currently third in the overall standings, 25 points below Lorenzo.
Lorenzo, like Pedrosa, feels at home in Barcelona, having set up base in the Catalan city.
"It's my home race. I'm from Mallorca, but have lived in Barcelona for a long time," Lorenzo said.
"It's also a track where I've had great results in the past. I think for the 1000cc Yamaha it could be a good track. I hope we have a weekend with good conditions, but if it rains, we'll be OK as well."
TIGHT CONTEST ON SUNDAY
The 2010 title-holder predicts a tight contest come Sunday.
"It's (the season) been very tough with a lot of competition, especially in the front group with Casey (Stoner) and Dani (Pedrosa).
"The races have a very high pace and are physically demanding. To be at the front you can't stop concentrating, you have to be at the limit all the time and, of course, not crash.
"To do this is always difficult, but I'm a little bit older and more experienced than the previous years, so this can make it a bit easier."
Rossi, the nine-time world champion, burst back to something like his old form in France, where he posted his best finish since joining Ducati, and was displaying plenty of zip in testing at Mugello last week, too.
Rossi rates Montmelo "one of my three favourite circuits" although he refused to get too excited about his Mugello times, saying: "We know that in the rain we're fast, but our target is to be faster in the dry.
"It's (Catalunya) one of my three favourite tracks of the season. I love to race here and I love the atmosphere with the fans."