x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Rain cannot dampen Stoner's double delight

Casey Stoner delivered the best birthday present to himself he could find - a second Moto GP title - with a win at rainy Philip Island in the Australian Grand Prix.

Casey Stoner rode to a second consecutive title on Sunday to celebrate his birthday at Phillip Island in the Australian MotoGP race.
Casey Stoner rode to a second consecutive title on Sunday to celebrate his birthday at Phillip Island in the Australian MotoGP race.

PHILLIP ISLAND, Australia // Birthday boy Casey Stoner breathed a sigh of relief Sunday after surviving a drama-filled day to seal his second MotoGP championship with his fifth successive Australian Grand Prix victory.

Stoner started the day feeling queasy at the news of rival Jorge Lorenzo's severely injured finger and finished it under immense pressure as driving wind and rain sent riders scattering like nine-pins in the latter stages of the race.

With Lorenzo ruled out of the race and in hospital for plastic surgery, the Australian was a shoo-in to seal the title with two races to spare but had to survive the odd hair-raising wobble in the final laps.

"Phillip Island doesn't let you go home without a wet session, and we got it during the race, unfortunately," the 26 year old said, after late rain showers turned the negotiating corners into something of a lottery.

"I've gone into that last turn, and as soon as I've cracked that throttle again, the rear came around and my heart was up in my throat."

Stoner, an intensely-driven rider not given to major displays of emotion, beamed on the podium in front of a cheering crowd and rated the title-sealing race as one of the best of his career.

But he would be happy to never celebrate another birthday at Phillip Island, he said, despite passing them with success on the race weekend.

"It'd be nice to have a birthday at home one day," said Stoner, who talked of a post-retirement future taking over his father's farm and is looking forward to the birth of his first child in a few months.

Stoner notched his ninth win from 16 starts in a supremely dominant season, and extended his MotoGP record total to 11 poles at Phillip Island.

The title was much sweeter this time around in his first year with Honda's stable of stars, he said, than with Ducati in 2007, where he was the main show but battled illness and mechanical frustration in his last seasons.

"This championship definitely felt the best," he said.

"In 2007, we were criticised for all kinds of things ... This year no-one's got excuses. There's three other riders on the same bike."

Stoner, relishing the re-introduction of 1000cc engines next year, said: "I've always preferred 1000s when I've got on them... With a lot of circuits it's going to be a lot more fun."