The Ducati Marlboro Team returns from a long September break this weekend ready to tackle the Estoril circuit with Casey Stoner back in the saddle alongside his team-mate Nicky Hayden.
The Italian outfit has been working hard on two fronts since the end of July, on one hand liasing with doctors in Australia monitoring the progress being made by Casey and on the other continuing exhaustive development of the Desmosedici, on which Nicky has been able to make great strides, culminating with his podium finish at Indianapolis and further signs of competitiveness at Misano before a blameless first lap crash.
During two months away from racing under the supervision of an expert medical team in his homeland (Dr. Neil Halpin, Sport Physician, Dr Jeremy Coleman, Consultant Physician, Dr Harry Grunstein, Endocrinologist and Professor Jonathan Silberberg, Cardiologist), who have remained in touch with Prof. Fabio Catani (Specialist in Pathology and Locomotive System at the Rizzoli Orthopaedic Institute of Bologna and Ducati's doctor for several years) and Dr Claudio Macchiagodena of the Clinica Mobile, Casey has undergone a series of exams and special tests.
The results of the tests have excluded pathological anomalies of cardiovascular, respiratory or neurological origins. The exams and inspections also failed to show up any kind of virus or infection.
However, the medical report made by Prof. Silderberg and Dr Coleman did reveal low blood pressure levels and a lack of sodium, the two factors that the doctors believe were the main cause of the physical problems that interrupted the season for the Ducati rider.
The doctors all agree that overtraining was the most common factor that showed up during the tests and that the after-effects of injuries and surgeries over the last few years were the cause of the physical weakness and exhaustion that the Australian began to suffer a few months ago.
The doctors also unanimously confirmed that their suggestion to stop Casey from racing at the end of July was absolutely necessary in order to avoid aggravating his physical debilitation.
Following the final medical examination that he underwent last week before leaving Australia, the doctors confirmed that whilst he was still not completely recovered, he is in better physical shape than he was in July and his weight is back up to 60kg, which is close to his ideal weight.
Casey will be back on track this weekend despite not being in peak condition and he will remain under medical supervision throughout, with a new sodium-rich diet aimed at raising his blood pressure and muscular functionality.
CASEY STONER Speaks... Ducati Marlboro Team (4th in the championship on 150 points)
"I'm definitely looking forward to the race weekend. Having three races off is the biggest period away from racing in my life. It was very difficult to accept the advice of the doctors to stop racing. In the past I have raced even when injured, like in the last few races of the 2008 season when my wrist was broken, but this time it was really not possible and of course I felt very sorry for the team. Now I'm looking forward to getting back together with the team and everyone and I hope I'll be able to be more competitive than I was in the past, but we will have to wait and see. The doctors have put me on some salt tablets to increase my sodium levels but we will have to see if it helps. We will understand more during the weekend. Of course it's going to be difficult: at first we won't know if it will work because I've been off the bike so long that in any case my muscles will take some time to get race fit again. But, as I said, I'm looking forward to getting back and to starting work on the bike, looking towards the future."
NICKY HAYDEN Speaks... Ducati Marlboro Team (14th in the championship on 73 points)
"A few weeks off is always nice but I'm definitely over it now and ready to get back to the track and on the bike. I haven't really been up to anything exciting over the break, just training and hanging out getting prepared for the final stretch of the season. Any time we get a few weeks at home is like gold when you travel like we do. I am very excited for Portugal - we go there feeling pretty positive after finding some decent speed over the last few races. We go there at a different time in the season from last year so it has been almost a year and half since we've been to the track, which makes it a little difficult. The track is nothing real special but I like it. It's pretty narrow, with probably the tightest and slowest chicane on the whole calendar, but has a great fifth gear kink on the back straightaway and the final turn is a very long, cool corner. Also we will have Casey back which is great for the team and the championship and I'm sure he will be as fast as ever. Getting on that front row or podium just got even harder for me!"