Valentino Rossi has not lost his winning touch and with a competitive bike could still be challenging Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo at the front in MotoGP.
That’s the view of the 32-year-old's legendary crew chief Jerry Burgess, who says he’s in no doubt that the Italian still has the skills and the speed to win MotoGP races.
Some people have started to doubt whether Rossi is still competitive enough to add to his amazing record of 105 Grand Prix wins after a nightmare debut season with Ducati saw him claim just one podium finish in Le Mans.
Stoner and Lorenzo meanwhile have won 25 of the last 35 races in the MotoGP world championship, with the Aussie claiming 10 victories in a dominant 2011 campaign for Repsol Honda.
But Burgess told MCN: “I don’t think a rider like Valentino has done anything other than gain more strings to his bow dealing with a difficult situation and clearly this is going to make him a lot stronger.
"I would have doubts if we’d been in this situation on a Honda and I would have doubts if we were on a Yamaha. Knowing the team and the guy we have, we’ve always expected to win.
"We haven’t hoped to win, we’ve expected to win and when we didn’t win we understood the reasons why to make sure you improve. That’s what has happened in 2011, so I would say we’re more cautiously optimistic.”
Burgess though admits that bridging the gap to compete with Stoner and Lorenzo will be a tough one.
He added: “You have to acknowledge that Casey and Jorge are the pick of the crop. They are the fastest guys out there and I think even Valentino would acknowledge that. But there is a plethora of guys between them and where we’ve been this year that we are capable of racing with like (Ben) Spies and (Andrea) Dovizioso.
"Given consistency and a good bike we’ll worry about Casey and Jorge on our day and see how good we can be. But you can’t ignore the performance of those two guys for the past couple of years.”