Australian avoiding overconfidence whilst teammate Hayden prepares for 100th race.
Casey Stoner and his Ducati Marlboro colleagues return to the scene of some of their most successful races this weekend, beginning their quest for a second MotoGP world title at the track at which they have won the past two editions of the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar.
The final preseason test of the year gave Stoner an extra boost heading to the Arab emirate, with his victory in the BMW M Award competition held at Jerez. The test also allowed the Australian to confirm his positive feeling with the Desmosedici GP9, although he is taking nothing for granted in the run-up to the 2009 campaign.
"I’m leaving behind the end of the summer holidays in Australia but to tell you the truth I really can’t wait for the new season to start. I’m really pleased with the progress we’ve made together with the Ducati engineers behind the scenes and with the tests we’ve done out on the track," says Stoner ahead of race one.
"Everybody has worked really hard, the bike has improved in a variety of areas and it’s much easier to ride. The power delivery from the engine is better, the carbon frame has improved stability and I’m happy with the carbon swingarm too, even though we have only tried it in the last two tests and it still needs a little more work before we full understand it. So testing has been positive but we know that racing is another story and we simply cannot afford to drop our guard at any point – we have to keep working hard to make sure we don’t make the same mistakes as last season, which we went into with too much confidence."
The Qatari race will also be a race to savour for Stoner’s new teammate, Nicky Hayden. The American debuts with Ducati on what will be his 100th Grand Prix start, something that fills him with pride.
"To be honest with you I’d like to have had a little more time with the bike in preseason but this is what we’ve got to deal with and now it’s time to get serious. If I could have chosen anywhere to be making my debut on the Ducati I would have chosen Qatar, where we had a good test session a few weeks ago, so I guess I’m lucky in that respect!" says Hayden of the Losail track.
"I can’t hide the fact that I’d like to be closer to the front than where we’re at right now and further down the road in terms of the work we’ve got to do with the team but I’m still really pleased that the season is starting because I love the races.
"I can’t believe it’s already been a hundred GP starts – I have really enjoyed them all… well some a lot more than others! But it’s been an honour to race in Grand Prix with all these great riders, sweet tracks, and the awesome fans all over the world! I know it won’t be easy but I really hope my best GPs are ahead of me."