Stoner promises late-season charge

Casey Stoner has warned his title rivals that he expects to be much harder to beat in the second half of the 2009 season

Stoner promises late-season charge

The Australian won the opening round in Qatar, but was unable to battle for victory at Motegi or Jerez, and is currently 11 points behind championship leader Valentino Rossi.

However given his early-season problems in 2008 and the wrist injury that marred his winter, Stoner said he felt very satisfied with his current position.

"Of course it's not a perfect situation, but this is much better than we could have hoped for," said Stoner.

"We've started really well. We were competitive in Japan - I think if we hadn't had the problem at the start of the race we could have definitely fought for the podium, maybe for the victory. Of course when you're a bit closer to somebody you can fight a bit harder.

"In Jerez we were never really there. In testing everything looked really good, but we knew inside that we were going to have a tough time, and with the extra wind we really struggled.

"So I think considering how the season's gone so far, we're very happy. It's a good starting point, and I think tracks towards the middle and the later part of the season suit me a lot better, and I hope we can start to charge a bit more."

Stoner has never won at Le Mans, the venue for this weekend's French Grand Prix, but thinks he will fare better there this year - especially given his breakthrough podium at Jerez, a track where he had always struggled in the past.

"You can change things around any time," he said. "We've had a lot of podium opportunities at this circuit and we've normally had quite good pace in past years, but we've never managed to get the result we want.

"It's quite a difficult track for me. We seem to flow well here, but when it comes to race day something happens and we don't have the equipment we need. Maybe it's something to do with myself. Maybe I can't get my head around this track.

"But I think this year we should be quite competitive. We got our first podium at Jerez in any class. It was a very good moment for me, and something that proves we've improved the package from past seasons.

"In past seasons I would struggle to even get close to a podium position (at Jerez), and we were fighting quite well for most of the race. We still struggled, the bike wasn't quite perfect, but we had a pretty good run there.

"So I'm looking forward to this weekend. It's a circuit where I feel we've got a better opportunity for a good result, and hopefully we can turn those results around like we did at Jerez."

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