Published: Thursday October 11, 2012 MYT 11:48:00 AM
Stoner's return complicates MotoGP
MOTEGI, Japan - Casey Stoner's return from injury at this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix may complicate his Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa's bid to overtake Yamaha ace Jorge Lorenzo for the MotoGP title.
"It's going to be great to see all my team and get back on my bike in Motegi this weekend," said Stoner, who has missed the last three races after injuring his right ankle in qualifying at the Indianapolis Grand Prix in August.
"The first (free) session on Friday will be crucial to see how my ankle feels in the boot and the degree of movement I have and pressure I can apply," added the Australian, who turns 27 next week.
Lorenzo, fellow Spaniard Pedrosa and Stoner have taken all the 14 races among themselves so far this season with four more to go.
"For sure it's going to be difficult because our competitors at this moment of the season are very strong but we have to play our cards in the best possible way," said 25-year-old Lorenzo.
Stoner, who underwent surgery on August 30, is expected to go full throttle toward his planned retirement at the end of this season.
Barring team orders, he could stall Pedrosa's campaign to pile up points for his first ever MotoGP title.
With six wins, Lorenzo is leading the championship by 33 points over Pedrosa and hopes to secure his second premier-class crown since 2010. The winner of each race earns 25 points.
Stoner, the MotoGP champion in 2007 and last year, won four races this year before the injury which has knocked him out of title contention.
He now stands at 186 points against 290 for Lorenzo, with the season ending in Valencia, Spain, after three Asia-Pacific stops in Japan, Malaysia and Australia.
Pedrosa clinched his fourth win of the season at the last Grand Prix in Aragon, Spain, on September 30 after crashing out on the first lap in the previous round at Misano, Italy. The exit ended his run of two straight wins.
"We have now the most demanding period of races ahead, but we will keep taking things step by step, thinking race by race," said Pedrosa, 27.
All the top three riders have conquered the 4.8-kilometre (three-mile) geometric Motegi circuit once in the premier class.
Stoner won the MotoGP there in 2010, Lorenzo did so in 2009 and finished second to Pedrosa in 2011.
"Motegi is a track that I like," Lorenzo said. "I think we can fight for the win again this weekend."
"I love Motegi," said Pedrosa. "It's a track with strong braking and strong acceleration. You must work very hard for the anti-wheelie, handling with the throttle, braking stability and good drive out of the corners."
Stoner said the circuit was "very stop-start with a lot of hard braking and accelerating. It's pretty tough on the body and physically quite demanding". - AFP