Casey Stoner wil try to secure the MotoGP title at his favourite track this wekend with yet another victory at his beloved Phillip Island circuit.
The 25-year-old Honda rider has won his home grand prix four years in a row, and a fabulous fifth victory could wrap up the title with two races left if closest rival and reigning champion Jorge Lorenzo finishes fourth or worse.
And if Spain’s Lorenzo fails to finish on the picturesque seaside track, 140 kilometres (90 miles) south of Melbourne, Stoner will only have to come sixth to be crowned champion.
Stoner, from Queensland, said he had enjoyed a love affair with Phillip Island since graduating to the top tier of motorcycle racing.
“Ever since I’ve been on the big bikes I’ve just gelled with PI (Phillip Island),” he said.
“I think that with the speed (of the bigger bikes) I can go through some of the corners faster than other riders and that gives me my edge.”
His affinity with the course leaves him well-placed to reclaim the world title, four years after his maiden title achieved on a Ducati.
“Winning at PI definitely feels a lot sweeter and at the end of the race when you get up on the podium in front of the home crowd and know that everyone is proud of you and that you have won for Australia,” Stoner said.
“I look forward to racing at Phillip Island every year, it is one of the few tracks I really enjoy.”
But Stoner said he had banished all thoughts of sealing the title in front of his home fans as he tries to concentrate solely on Sunday’s race.
“The Honda should work well there so I’m looking forward to seeing what I can achieve,” Stoner said.
“If you win races the championship will take care of itself. There is a possibility to win it at the Island which would be fantastic, but I’m not thinking about it too much. I have less pressure this year.”
Whether he can clinch it in Australia or not, the title looks like a formality for Stoner whose 40-point lead in the standings prompted Lorenzo to all but concede his crown last week.
“It’s too late,” the Spaniard said. “Even if I won the last three races, including Australia, it still doesn’t give me the world title.
“Casey must finish further back than second in each race and in my mind I don’t see this situation unless there is something strange.
“Maybe I can win some races but I can’t see winning three races, it is too late with the bike we have.”
Italian Andrea Dovizioso said he was hoping to hold off Stoner’s team-mate Dani Pedroso and retain third position on the championship table.
“My target this time is to return to the podium and gain some points in order to retain the third position in the championship,” he said.
“Phillip Island is a demanding track and in the past I have struggled quite a lot. The real issue is with the weather, the strong winds, rain, and cold temperatures have often complicated the race.”
The Moto2 class remains the tightest of the three categories.
Spain’s Marc Marquez took the lead in the championship for the first time this season following his second-placed finish in Japan and he now leads German Stefan Bradl by just one point.
In the 125cc category, Frenchman Johann Zarco will continue his pursuit of championship leader Nico Terol of Spain.
Zarco, who celebrated his debut win in Japan, trails Terol by 31 points.