An obviously weak CASEY STONER/Ducati Team Ducati met with a few media after his Friday MotoGP practice session at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. His head was hung and his voice was low, so it wasn’t easy to follow the conversation.
The understatement of the weekend – “I’ve felt better.”
“I had plenty of time to recover between the Barcelona and Assen races, but still encountered the same problems, so it’s no surprise to come here after just six days and be struggling. The feeling of tiredness and sickness has started earlier than it did in those two race weekends, so it’s not looking good. There is no time to recover. I was already getting tired the last few laps of the session.
“But again, we have found a good set-up with the bike. We know we have something competitive and I just wish I was able to use it more. The bike still needs traction but otherwise it is doing well. We will make a few changes Saturday and run on hard tires (Bridgestones.)
“Stomach cramps came after the Assen race due to exhaustion. I have no idea what it is. I feel good during the weekend, then in the middle of the session I got sick. I’ve never had this problem before in racing. It’s hard for the doctors because I don’t have any symptoms until I am physically tired, at which point I go rapidly down the other side of the hill; so it’s not like they can give me antibiotics, because they don’t know what it is. Anyway, they have given me something new to try here and we’ll see if we can bring it back for race day. If it works, I’ll be very grateful.”
Stoner said the Laguna track is not physically challenging. “The track is so short, that each lap is a refresh.”
Stoner is already aware that his symptoms are similar to Epstein-Barr. He has been discussing it with a doctor in Australia, who said it could be EB. An Aussie footballer struggled with EB. And MAT MLADIN, AMA Superbike rider had it mid-season 2003 and pulled out of the second Superbike race at Laguna after ten laps. The diagnosis came a month later. He suffered through the extreme fatigue and still won the championship.
This weekend at Laguna, Mladin is running the AMA Pro National Guard American Superbike presented by Parts Unlimited Series race. He currently is leading the standings by a country mile, with nine wins in ten races, plus a fifth place finish.
First thing after this race Stoner is going to be tested and wait for results. He hopes for answers sooner rather than later. About the only thing one can do with Epstein-Barr is rest. Stoner said the Australian doctor talked of replacing balance. “If my body is low in something, then it’s replaced.
“I don’t see how much more rest will help me in the race. I have to keep going. In Assen, I was buggered after the race, but not too bad. Then it hit all of a sudden and I had to throw up. I have to try and survive this weekend, and see if I can keep up my energy.
“The last few races it’s been Rossi, Lorenzo and myself on the podium, and I’d like to change the direction of the podium a bit.”