On the first day of testing after the Valencia MotoGP round, all eyes were on two newcomers: Valentino Rossi on the Ducati and Casey Stoner on the Honda. Yamaha had not allowed Valentino Rossi from talking to the press at the tests, so the media crowded in to the Repsol Honda hospitality to hear what Casey Stoner had to say. Everyone was particularly eager to hear from the Australian, as he had been the second fastest rider on his very first outing on the Honda RC212V, and had looked immensely smooth.
Naturally, Stoner was also bombarded by questions relating to the Ducati, questions that Stoner had said before the tests started that he would refuse to answer, "out of respect for Ducati" as he had phrased it. It didn't stop journalists from asking, but Stoner dealt with them remarkably deftly. As a result, there are one or two places in the transcript where it looks like Stoner is avoiding the question, which he is doing to avoid comparison with the Ducati. The fault, though, lies with the journalists who are asking the questions, rather than the rider answering them.
Here's what Casey Stoner had to say on Tuesday evening:
Q: Your first impression of the bike, of today?
Casey Stoner: Well, you know, it's been very exciting times for us, these last months have been passing away too slowly. So, this last day and a half has been almost excruciating. So it was a very exciting moment, to finally there to get out on the bike, to get that first feedback from it. And everything that I can say, it's been great today, to be honest.
Almost everything I expected, and you know, the feeling that I had, the feedback I got from the bike, is just excellent. Step by step we, you know my the position would have been better on the bike, just starting to feel slightly more comfortable. We haven't really changed a lot today, we're just doing some laps, and making sure that when I came back in, I just gave the best data I could and tried to make the right direction, the right steps from there.
We did a lot with electronics today, just trying to get an understanding of which way they work, and what direction we want to head for the future. And yes, so far everything has been pretty good. we haven't had to touch too much to do with the chassis. We've just been running laps and trying to get an understanding of how the engine works, what characteristic it is. And how we want the bike to react.
Q: You do test the 2010 bike?
CS: Yes, that was all we wanted to do today was get comfortable with the bike. It is hard for me to come out and go, oh yeah, I want this and I want that. I have no real experience. It was just getting time on the bike so I can get comfortable. And then I can understand what changes we make, and what differences it makes to the bike.
Q: And if, similar feeling from the 2006 bike, you rode?
CS: No! [Laughs] No, it's been a long time since that as well, and I only spent one, season on the bike back then, so it wasn't, you know, the tires, they said were quite a bit different, but they were still black and round, so it's not too big a difference. But the bike in general, the way I feel, is everything is quite a lot different.
Q: Can you make any comparison with Ducati, no comparison, but what's different? What are the important differences?
CS: [Smiles] I was very happy with the Honda today [everyone laughs]. I was very happy with the bike today. It felt great to me and I had just great feedback from it basically. I was able to run quite a lot of laps, and in a short space of time we've found just excellent feedback. And basically the ergonomics of the bike was the most important thing for us today. To get myself in the right position on the bike, and this didn't take long at all, so very very happy with that. It only took a couple of exits to get very comfortable, and then it was just a matter of running laps, getting more in tune with the bike. There is a lot of different things to understand.
Q: How is your front end feeling?
CS: Yes, at the moment the front feeling is perfect. I was pushing it slightly more and more, and the last run, the last exit, it started to respond more. So, we didn't touch the chassis very much at all today, we did almost nothing. We got great feedback from what we did. What I was doing, I was just slightly pushing it a little bit more, a little bit more, and you know, the feeling was fantastic. I was able to go in on the brakes with a lot of confidence, go on to the side of the tire with a lot of confidence. We had absolutely no problems.
Q: Did you find Valentino on the track today?
CS: I did't see Valentino at all on the track, so I think I only saw maybe three riders today, which was pretty impressive, because there was a lot of people out there. Everybody was running laps at the same time, but I only really came across three riders, I think.
Q: I saw you and Nicky come on to the straight together at one time...
CS: I don't remember exactly, I remember coming past him, and he was waiting. I don't know if he was waiting for me, or if he was just going out from the pits. I think I got him in turn two or something, in the last exit, so. There were a couple of riders there, on the last exit that I passed. I think they were the only ones that I saw almost all the day, so it was a very quiet day in that respect. We had our goals and our aims, and it was not racing other riders today. It was getting everything, getting all the information we can.
Q: Are you using a bike with the same or similar weight balance than the previous one?
CS: The previous one?.
Q: The Ducati.
CS: We haven't taken anything from our past to this. We just started from a complete zero today, with the bike, and basically just working from this. So we didn't change almost anything from the chassis. It was just what we had available, we started with a very neutral position, and then just started working on the engine mapping, and how to get the right feeling with this. We didn't have a lot of track time today, but enough to get us started in the right direction, sure.
Q: You were fast almost from lap 4, you were right at the top of the time sheets. How much more is there to come, how much more potential do you think you can get out of this bike?
CS: The potential for me is the most exciting thing. This is the biggest point for us today was very exciting, there is so much more to come. Just getting comfortable with the bike and things like this. The fact that we didn't touch almost anything on the chassis, we just got the balance more or less a little bit better. We haven't try to do really anything with the bike, and just concentrating on one area at the time, trying to get it working better in that way.
And I heard I went fastest with those laps, but they weren't fast, they were slow laps. We took our time today, we got up to speed, sort of the way I wanted to. It's just trying to work out mapping and electronics, trying to get that understanding, and tomorrow maybe we work a little bit on chassis, things like that. But we just want to make sure that with the small amount of testing time we have to concentrate on one thing at the time, and make sure we get that right before moving on to the next stage.
Q: You think there is three quarters of a second potential, which is the gap to Jorge?
CS: Heck, yeah! That was today when it wasn't windy when I went out. Unfortunately when I went out I had a new tire and we thought we might be able to do something. But with a new bike it takes me three, four laps to get comfortable with it, and then start going, and by that time the tire was knackered and the wind was blowing pretty strong, so I was a little bit annoyed with that, but at the same time we were able to just keep going, running laps, and it felt so much more comfortable for me to be able to run laps consistently, and just run more laps at a time. You know, I felt a lot better when I came back into the garage, and as many laps as I could get on it at the moment, to give back that right information, because we're not going to get a lot of testing time.
Q: What about the power delivery, because that is one of the things all the riders have been complaining about during the year?
CS: I had a lot of fun with it, to be honest. No, at the beginning we had very slow, very progressive power delivery, and we were trying to make it basically a little stronger in the early part of the throttle, so I had more control in the hand rather than in the engine, using the mapping to sort of slowly bring the engine power on. So we worked on this for most of the day, and got the feeling better and better. So I had more control in the hand and immediately everything started to feel more comfortable to me. For me the engine is extremely smooth, I mean, it's like glass you know, it's great.
Q: You mean much more than Ducati?
CS: I just mean the engine is smooth.
Q: Casey, were you anxious last night before the test and did you expect such a good start?
CS: Last night I wasn't anxious. I was definitely more anxious this morning. To be honest, yeah, I just wanted the conditions to be right. I didn't really want to go out there, I was going to run in the wet, but only if it wasn't windy. If it was windy then there was no way I was going out to deal with both conditions. So if it was wet weather, then I would have gone out to get my position right, maybe, not to push but just to get the feeling of the bike. So when it did dry up, we can waste less time. But anyway we got everything quite close from the beginning, and everything was great, but for sure this morning I was starting to get nervous and a little anxious.
Q: Can you tell this is an easy bike?
CS: To run the speeds we're doing, the lap times we are doing, no bike is really easy. But for sure I'm very happy and it's many things of what I expected before I rode this bike, from racing with them, and competing with them over these years. It's many things of what I expected. We'll have to see what is coming in the future, this is day one. So, we've a long way to go before we reach its and our full potential with it, and then we can start to understand what we … .
Q: Dani has said that four riders are too many riders for one team. Do you think this will be a problem?
CS: Three pilots, with Simoncelli in in different colors, in a different team. Honestly, as far as I can see, we all have the same amount of mechanics, so I mean, nobody is getting less treatment than another, so for me there is nothing wrong with this. In the past, they did this, and it was fantastic, so, I think it can be a great thing. Of course, everybody always wants to feel like they're more important or more special than others, but if everybody is given the same treatment, then for me I don't see any problem with this. And anyway, we all have our own team to worry about. We all have our own mechanics and engineers that we are going to do the best job we can with. So this is the only way we can think about.
Q: Was the engine as powerful as you expected?
CS: Smoother than I expected. I expected extreme accelaration and grunt, but it came so smooth, it was a little bit surprising. This is something we worked on, to get it a little bit more responsive in the hand, and then by the end of the day we got a lot more comfortable with this situation.
Q: What is the feeling, Casey, as a factory rider in Honda after Mick Doohan and Wayne Gardner?
CS: Extremely proud, extremely proud. I'm just really happy to be riding this bike, and for next year I couldn't be any more excited. I'm going to do the best job I can in this off-season, because we have quite a lot of time off. I'll do everything I can for tomorrow and in the pre-season, and see what happens. I'm going to do the best job I can and try to make everyone proud.
Q: How is your team responding to the new bike?
CS: As I expected, I know that they were happy to follow me anywhere. They are my family, I've been working with them now for the last four years, but it feels like many years longer. And I'm happy for them, they're very happy with the situation, and very very happy to follow me here. Sso, as far as I can see, they're really enjoying themselves also, it's something new, something fresh for them. And after so many years with a manufacturer, going to another, is a lot of things to learn. It makes the brain work again, and I think that they appreciate this fact also.
Q: You said the bike met almost all your expectations. In what area are you still missing something?
CS: A little bit more for me to know. I think just because we haven't had time to set the bike, and to understand it, the potential for me is so high. We haven't done anything basically today, you know, very little, and we found so many things, so many parameters, that we're able to move and to make better. So I'm sure we'll make the bike feel more and more comfortable. And as I get a little bit more comfortable with the bike, you know, the first day always feels a little strange. But when I get more comfortable and we move these parameters in the direction we want, yeah, it will meet our expectations.
Q: Casey, do you think you will have to do less work than Valentino in Ducati? You know Ducati and now you know Honda.
CS: I think both are race winning machines, that has been proven this season. Whether one has more work to do than another, I can't say. It is not up to me, you have to be the same rider is both situations. It is difficult to say this, but for sure I have a lot of work to do. In myself also to become comfortable with something different, but for sure Valentino has the same job ahead.