Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Casey Stoner Rides Again... and what a ride it was!

Sometimes things just fall in place. Today was such a day when we happened to be in the right spot at the right time and staying with the right people! I mean what are the odds of arriving near the Sepang circuit in Malaysia just when the MotoGP circus starts their testing days :-) Free entry, beautiful weather and not swamped with people. 'Yeah but it's not a real race' I hear you say. Perhaps, but testing by its very nature is 'seeing how fast it will go and compare your own setup to other teams'... sounds pretty much a good recipe for racing to me!

We'd never thought we'd seen famous number 27 on a MotoGP bike again, and especially not on a Ducati MotoGP. Yet that's exactly what we saw today. Having retired 5 years ago, Casey Stoner threw his leg over the new 2016 model Ducati and showed that he can still compete with the best. On the first day he set a time good enough for 5th... on a still dirty track! When people like Lorenzo are impressed with what they saw and state he can still ride in the top 3... we can safely say his riding ability is still there. At the end of day 2, when we were there he was the second fastest team Ducati rider, just 0.05 seconds behind the Ducati top gun. Was Casey going flat-out? Who knows. Was he a 100% used to the bike? Most likely not. Will it set them thinking at Ducati headquarters in Italy? You bet! You see, he wasn't even on the 2016 model but on last year's bike... The day after we got our answers when Stoner said he wasn't in Sepang to set a fast time, he was only gathering data... The last day he did go out on the 2016 model and came in 5th overal on a damp track, while the first Ducati factory rider came in 8th... He can still ride! 

Seeing him ride was a sight to see. He's been away for 5 years and yet didn't give us the impression he was struggling or trying to prove a point. He was 'just' the test rider for team Ducati, seemingly enjoying the ride. For us it was a treat! We took a break from cleaning the bikes for Australian Quarantine and were taken to the track by Josylan from the aptly named Formula 1 Bed and Breakfast, which is near the track and near the airport. He's been a great guy throughout the time we stayed here and came up trumps once again when we didn't want to ride the bikes to the circuit as they are being meticulously cleaned at the moment.

The day didn't start that well when Loris Baz crashed heavily at 290 km/hr. The official statement was a tyre blowout but we have the feeling something else happened as the tyre doesn't seem flat in the photos we took! It looks like a suspension collapse to us. Luckily Baz didn't hurt himself, although we'd think he'd have some blisters on his ass after sliding over the bitumen at 290 km/hr :-) Michelin withdrew the tyre he was riding on, just to be sure and racing (sorry, testing) continued. Lorenzo also went gardening... see below

One of the more surprising things to us was the differences in engine revs. The new Ducatis were screaming, almost harking back to the 2-stroke days, while the Yamahas had a much darker sound. The top speed showed some differences too. The way the Suzuki was overtaken by a Ducati on the straight will raise more than a few eyebrows in Hamamatsu! The Aprilia on the other hand is one of the more beautiful machines.

Visiting Sepang today and see Casey Stoner in action was another highlight of our trip around the world. What a treat and what a great day!