Motorcycling: Stoner casts doubt on backbone of British challenge

Casey Stoner, Australia's 20-year-old MotoGP sensation, finished fifth in practice for the Italian round at Mugello yesterday - and rebuked British riders who complain that they are unable to break into the world championship scene.

Stoner, who is poised to win his first MotoGP race, is just one of a series of Australians to find grand prix and world Superbike success, while most British riders remain stuck in their national championships.

"Unfortunately, the British build their riders up so much that they believe, 'If I had the right bike I could be world champion'," Stoner said. "But they forget how hard they have to work for it. They get here and they just stop putting in any more effort. They think they've arrived because the English press builds them up too much."

Stoner's family sold their house in Australia when he was 14 to fund a move to Britain so that he could develop his talent. He used the 125cc British championship to showcase that talent, and two years later he had progressed to 125cc grand prix racing.

Now he rides a 990cc Honda RC211V for the Monaco-based LCR team, and yesterday sped down the straight at more than 200mph as he battled to set a faster time than MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi, who was quickest in both the practice sessions.

A British rider Stoner admires for his grit, 19-year-old Chaz Davies, lost his 250cc ride in the Campetella team at Mugello yesterday after four years of effort on grand prix tracks.

In the 125cc class, the 15-year-old British schoolboy Bradley Smith achieved his most successful qualifying effort yet when he finished eighth fastest yesterday.

British Superbike Preview Mallory Park Riders chasing the championship leader Gregorio Lavilla will find another barrier in their way in the sixth round of the British Superbike series at Mallory Park tomorrow - a chicane installed in the legendary Gerards Bend.

"To stick a chicane in the middle of a 120mph corner certainly makes things interesting," Rizla Suzuki's Shane Byrne said. "It may give us another overtaking spot on the circuit. I think we'll be genuine podium contenders. I need to win soon - I'm feeling starved."

Lavilla has won six of the eight races so far this season on his Airwaves Ducati, and has amassed 182 points, 61 more than his team-mate Leon Haslam.