A man of the Australian brush, small animals don’t easily scare 25-year-old Casey Stoner. But this was far from the case during Friday’s practice for the Indy MotoGP; Stoner eyed a squirrel on the circuit while piloting his Repsol Honda RC212V, the small rodent putting a damper on his rhythm.
Casey Stoner (Respol Honda RC212V MotoGP) says: “I saw something out of the corner of my eye. I thought it was a piece off someone else’s bike. And when I went around the corner, that (squirrel) was there. It took me awhile to get going again.”
But once the squirrel fears were gone, Stoner was back up to speed as usual. But optimal performance for Stoner is not a usual occurrence at Indianapoiis Motor Speedway.
The 2007 MotoGP Champion’s best finish there was fourth during the track’s debut in 2008. He didn’t start there in 2009 due to being out because of the then-mysterious illness that turned out to be lactose intolerance. And last year’s MotoGP meet at Indy went terrible for Stoner; after complaining of bumps in the track, Stoner fell victim to one, crashing out of the race.
These bumpy conditions were addressed for 2011, though, and Indy repaved the 2.6-mile circuit from turns 5 through 16, the area most of the MotoGP grid complained about.
Although Indy is repaved, Stoner still feels the track is slick, and considers Indy his “least favorite” of the 2011, 18-race MotoGP series. Regardless, Stoner finished second in Free Practice 1 Friday, just behind Yamaha Factory Racing’s Ben Spies, and took the top time in Free Practice 2.
Casey Stoner says: “(Friday) the track was slightly better and of course the lap times improved with more bikes on track and cleaning it up, but I’m still not comfortable on this surface.
It’s incredibly slippery and the track is certainly my least favorite of the whole season.
“It’s very tight, slippery and the new surface is pretty bad, it’s not just the dirt on the surface but there seems to be something strange where the two surfaces join, some grease of some sort that creates more issues. With this said, we couldn’t find too much with the bike, we made a small step this morning and a small step this afternoon but we’re struggling to get a good feeling in the bike.
“We tried the harder front this afternoon which gave us good feedback and we were able to go a little bit faster, but in general the track needs to improve before we can know what direction to go in and I just hope the conditions improve for the race.
“My last few exits were slightly ruined from traffic on track and also wildlife! I saw something out the corner of my eye, I’m not sure what it was perhaps a gopher or something, I thought it was a part from someones bike, I’m just glad we both escaped from that situation unharmed!”
Stoner will be back on the Indy circuit today for Free Practice 3 and qualifying ahead of Sunday’s Red Bull GP. In 11 of 18 races, Stoner won six times, and currently leads the 2011 MotoGP Championship with 218 points, 32 over Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo.