Casey Stoner proved he had lost none of his combative personality as the secondary V8 Supercar series prepares for a showcase opening at this weekend’s Clipsal 500.
The dual MotoGP world champion gave a glimpse of the belligerence which unnerved motorcycle superstar Valentino Rossi when he previewed his first run in Red Bull Racing’s Holden.
Stoner knows he will have to deal with fans who expect he can do in a car what he did on a bike when he debuts in the Dunlop Series and has been at pains to downplay unrealistic goals.
“It’s a little disappointing really because I’d love to come into this sport as an unknown, nobody really knowing what I’ve done,” Stoner said.
He may be a rookie without a race under his belt and no knowledge of the V8 tracks, but Stoner indicated he will be no-one’s bullseye.
“We are going to have a target on our back but personally I’ve put my own targets on other drivers out there, so we’ll see what happens.
“After the first session they’ll probably realise not to put a target on my back and choose someone different.”
But he said the atmosphere in the V8 paddock was pleasantly different to what he encountered on the MotoGP tour.
“It’s definitely a lot more friendly. People can be great competitors on Sunday and mates on Monday.
“In Europe it’s very cut-throat and they seem to think that to beat the guy next to you, you have to almost hate them,” he said.
Stoner has been carrying the saloon car spotlight this year in parallel with the introduction of Car of the Future new brands Mercedes Benz and Nissan in the main competition.
Despite his rookie status and likely lowly finishes, the signing of the dual motorcycle world champion is a serious coup for the Red Bull Racing Holden team and will focus more international attention on the championship proper.
Admitting the whole concept of racing on four wheels was “alien” to him and he was nervous about the closed in concrete walls of the Adelaide track, Stoner conceded he was on a steep learning curve and will be out to soak up as much as possible from his rivals, race by race.
He said he had no expectations as far as results were concerned but would concentrate solely on improving.
“This entire year I’m just going to be learning non-stop,” Stoner said.
“Practice and qualifying will give us more of an idea of what we can expect for a race but at this point we have no benchmark of where we can be or what we can achieve for the weekend.
“It’s completely alien and new for me so we’ve just been running through every type of condition we can (in training), trying to find something that suits the way I drive – and we’re slowly getting there.”