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September 22, 2017

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Early comeback boosts Stoner's confidence

MOTEGI -- Reigning MotoGP champion Casey Stoner says it was worth the risk to make a comeback at the weekend's Japanese Grand Prix despite not being fully recovered from surgery on his right ankle.

The Australian Honda rider, due to retire from MotoGP racing at the end of the season, finished fifth on Sunday having missed the previous three races because of his injury.

"This weekend I slightly got my confidence back up," Stoner said. "During the race I had the pace to run with the front guys, probably not for the whole race. But we definitely had the pace and that's good."

The 2007 and 2011 world champion crashed in qualifying for the Indianapolis MotoGP on Aug. 19 but still raced there to finish fourth. He underwent surgery on Aug. 30 on torn ligaments and fractures to his ankle, tibia and fibula.

Stoner, who turns 27 on Tuesday, said: "(The accident) made me a lot more cautious, especially to come back here. I didn't really want to crash. Anything I do to my foot can send us back a long way."

The Japanese GP was won by his factory Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa as he beat Yamaha ace and championship leader Jorge Lorenzo into second, keeping alive his hopes to lift his first premier-class title.

The two Spaniards and Stoner have between them won every race this season with Lorenzo winning six against five for Pedrosa and four for the Australian.

Stoner's absence has pushed him out of title contention with just three races remaining.

But he has vowed to go full throttle to end his MotoGP career on a high, especially at his home Grand Prix on Phillip Island later this month where has has triumphed for five straight years.

Stoner, still limping, admitted his body "started to suffer and ache in ways I didn't expect" during the race at Motegi.

He could not put enough weight on the front and his bike suffered a "huge amount of chatter (vibration after braking)" as he protected his right foot, which is still undergoing extensive treatment.

"We had the pace to run a lot higher and get on the podium," he said. "Unfortunately, just physically, I couldn't manage this situation. I'm a little bit disappointed."

Stoner, who had initially planned to come back at the Australian GP at the end of October, said that his Japan outing might help him for the rest of the championship series which will end in Valencia, Spain, on Nov. 11.

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