By Gordon Hatch - MotoGP correspondent
- 2007 champion ready for 2011 season
- Stoner happy with his move to Honda
- Qatar night race is first 2011 event
Casey Stoner is looking forward to the upcoming 2011 MotoGP season and with the first race at Qatar where the Aussie has won on four occasions, all eyes are on him and how he will perform in his first race on the Repsol Honda RC212V.
Stoner has won at the Losail International Circuit on four occasions now: three MotoGP - 07, 08 and 09 and also once in the 250cc class in 2005. He is once again looking forward to this year's season opener in Qatar from 17- 20th March.
The Australian said although he is happy that the beginning of the season is nearly here, he would have liked a little more variety of tracks to test at saying, "I am very excited, because we spent many days training, but that is not the ideal situation, as during the preseason we don't have a wide variety of circuits.
Nevertheless, the races are finally approaching and I am looking forward to see how we perform with this team, how I work with the bike on the circuit and, above all, which is the general level for everyone. I am sure there will be riders more confident than others, so it will be interesting to see who goes for victory in the first race," said Stoner.
I think we will see very exciting races this year.
The 2007 champion remains confident in a good finish at Qatar but he still disagrees with Dorna, the owners of MotoGP, about having a four-day event at the Middle Eastern circuit.
"I don't like it. It is very difficult because at the time that we have to ride, late in the evening, the track conditions are very bad, cold and unpredictable. It would be better if we could ride a little earlier. But for a Grand Prix to last 4 days is too long. For me that's not the ideal situation, but everyone would be in the same situation, so we will go on as we have," he continued.
Stoner and teammate Dani Pedrosa have dominated in pre-season testing at Sepang, Malaysia where the two Repsol Honda riders were the only two men to break the elusive two-minute mark. However a raft of Honda's and the Yamaha's of Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies are following close behind.
Stoner firmly believes that the entire MotoGP field will be much closer this season compared to previous years, "I have seen many riders that are taking more risks and they are pushing a lot more. There is more competitiveness because they think victory is possible, they feel they are closer to the podium and that motivates them to take more risks than before. I think we will see very exciting races this year."
Honda got the jump on its rivals in pre-season testing this year with the Japanese manufacturing giant completely focused on winning back the MotoGP crown. Responding to questions on how he thinks the RC212V will perform compared to rivals Yamaha, Ducati and Suzuki, Stoner said, "It is difficult to say. Naturally, we are happy with the path Honda has taken and everything they have done for us from our first test in Valencia to now, because they have made good progress.
Both Dani and I are pushing a little more than the others, but until we get to the race it is difficult to know where we really are. At the moment we are happy with what Honda is giving us, we just need to be sure that everything will work at the races."
The last three MotoGP seasons have been dominated by the 'Aliens' that includes Stoner, Pedrosa, reigning champ Jorge Lorenzo and factory Ducati rider Valentino Rossi. But Stoner does not think this year will be the same saying he expects some 'surprises.'
"I am certain Dani [Pedrosa] and Jorge [Lorenzo] will be in front, but Andrea [Dovizioso] is quickly improving and Simoncelli and Ben Spies could also stir things up. Valentino might be ready for the first race, but we might have to wait a little. But I am sure that there might be some unexpected rider that will make an effort to be in front," Stoner added.