Valentino Rossi reckons Aussie rival Casey Stoner will pose the biggest threat to his hopes of lifting a seventh MotoGP world title in 2009.
Since the beginning of the 2007 campaign, factory Ducati rider Stoner has won an impressive 16 races on a bike no other rider has been able to master.
That’s three more victories than Rossi has notched in the last two season’s, underlining just why the Italian rates Stoner as such a dangerous opponent.
“I think that the number one rival will be Stoner. Then also Pedrosa will be very fast, and of course Lorenzo, “said the 29-year-old.
Fiat Yamaha rider is also in no doubt that team-mate Jorge Lorenzo will pose a much more serious threat in 2009 after his impressive form shown in his rookie campaign last season.
“I do think that Lorenzo will be one of my strongest rivals, because he has a year’s more experience and this year there is also the monotyre, so we will start equal.
"He will be a very hard rival to fight,“added the record-breaking Italian, who broke Giacomo Agostini’s long-standing tally of 68 premier class wins last season.
Rossi also believes the introduction of the single tyre rule for 2009 will help improve MotoGP as a spectacle next season.
Even Rossi himself started to get irritated with the processional MotoGP races last season, and he even spoke of his excitement for World Superbikes after an immediately forgettable Valencia GP last October.
He said: “It’s a bit early to say, but I think that there will be a better show because everyone will have the same tyre.
"With the monotyre, for better or for worse and considering the show, during the last few laps of the race the bike will move around a bit more and so you will have to go a little bit slower. This will probably produce closer battles. We hope so!”
Rossi though also reiterated his belief that electronics and not just tyres have contributed to some of the dull races now commonplace in MotoGP racing.
“In the last few years there have been races, especially since the arrival of the 800cc motorcycle, with a lot less close racing and I think that this is mostly to do with the evolution of the tyres. Now in the corners we’re very fast and so there is less time to try to overtake.
"Furthermore however, the huge evolutions in electronics have levelled the performance of the riders and therefore this has also led to a few less battles,“ said Rossi.