Two-time MotoGP champion Casey Stoner will make his long-awaited V8 Supercars debut on Friday after unveiling his Red Bull Racing Australia Holden in Adelaide today.
As his former two-wheeled counterparts contemplate the 2013 MotoGP season without the 27-year-old, Stoner has all but finalised preparations ahead of his first ever race on four wheels.
He will compete in the Dunlop Development Series and get his first taste of the unforgiving Victoria Park, Adelaide street circuit in opening practice on Thursday.
Stoner unveiled his Red Bull Pirtek Holden in Adelaide alongside team owner Roland Dane, his ride the very same VE Commodore that took Craig Lowndes and Mark Skaife to Bathurst 1000 victory in 2010.
The official livery reveal marks a momentous occasion in V8 Supercars history, Stoner the first international motorcycling star to make the transition to the V8 series since 1987 MotoGP champion Wayne Gardner almost 21 years ago to the day. It also marks the return to the category of Pirtek, a brand with a championship winning history in the sport.
“I can’t wait,” said Stoner, who joins reigning champion Jamie Whincup as a Holden ambassador.
“It’s exciting to finally get the chance to be at a race weekend after so much time thinking about it. I think it’s going to be fantastic and I’m very much looking forward to it.
“Everything’s gone pretty smoothly so far but until we’re on the track there’s only so much we can do. But the team has been great and helped me out in absolutely every way possible and I’m very excited.”
Not only will Stoner be attempting to steer some 1.3tonnes of metal around a race track, but he’ll be doing so inside the tight confines of a cement-barriered street circuit that’s unforgiving at the best of times.
“It’s a little nerve-racking,” Stoner said.
“It’s something very alien to me racing a car let lone with walls each side of me and not something I’m completely natural with yet, but I do want to go out and enjoy it.”
His only knowledge of the circuit is what he’s learned on the computerized simulator at Triple Eight Race Engineering’s headquarters in Brisbane. In fact, the only competition circuit Stoner has driven his No.27 Holden on is Queensland Raceway – a purpose-built race track that’s a far cry from the streets of Adelaide.
“I have a fair idea of what’s involved, but unfortunately nothing can really replicate what I’ll have to do when I get out there,” Stoner said.
“Craig (Lowndes) and Jamie (Whincup) have been fantastic and give bits of advice where they can, but until you’re out there it’s very hard to replicate that. So, I’ve done all I can.”
Internationally renowned for his brutal honesty with press, Stoner didn’t pull any punches when asked of his expectations for the weekend.
“I have no idea where we’re going to be running,” he said.
“I first and foremost want to enjoy it, but, you know, I’m a competitive driver, I’ll still come out and we’ll see where our results end up. But at this point we have no real goals set, just to try and learn as much as we can, pick up what we can and see where we end up at the end of a weekend.
“I’m not expecting too much too early. But the racing looks like a heck of a lot of fun, so I’m looking forward to getting out there.”
Having spent his entire childhood on motorbikes, Stoner was a relative veteran when he entered MotoGP in 2006. And as he prepares to get behind the wheel of his 640horsepower Holden, the 2011 MotoGP champion – whose previous four-wheel experience was limited strictly to roads and highways in his Holden SS Sportwagon – admits to feeling more trepidation than he did when making the transition from 250GPs to the top category.
“It’s very different,” Stoner said.
“Back then I’d been racing bikes my whole life, and of course I was a little bit nervous. When you step up the different classes, because it’s all generally the same on two wheels, it’s not a big thing, but for me moving from two wheels to four wheels is something I’ve never done before. I’ll be a little more nervous, for sure, than I was going into MotoGP. But I’m also very excited.”
And Stoner is equally as excited to be making his V8 Supercars debut in a Holden.
“I’ve been watching Holden race in V8 Supercars for years now and to be able to drive one this year with Triple Eight, Red Bull and Pirtek is a fantastic opportunity,” Stoner said.
“The transition from two wheels to four has been made a whole lot smoother by all the support I’ve had from Holden. Holdens are kind of a part of Australian culture, so to be able to race one, it’s a dream.”
Stoner will make his Dunlop Series race debut at 5.45pm (Adelaide) on Friday, March 1.
Stoner’s Adelaide Race Schedule
9.45am – practice 1
2.45pm – practice 2
9.50am – qualifying
5.45pm – race 1
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12.45pm – race 2