Sepang MotoGP: Valentino Rossi admits Casey Stoner now biggest threat

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Valentino Rossi has admitted Casey Stoner will now be his main MotoGP adversary after the Aussie stepped out of the shadow of Dani Pedrosa.

Since Dani Pedrosa moved to MotoGP in 2006 after claiming three world titles in the 125 and 250 classes, Valentino Rossi has always earmarked the Spaniard as his most serious threat.

But Casey Stoner’s incredible surge to the 2007 MotoGP world championship crown has forced Valentino Rossi to reassess thoughts on his rivals, and not surprisingly now he believes the impressive Aussie will be his biggest threat.

Casey Stoner is bidding for his 10th victory of the season in this weekend’s Malaysian MotoGP in Sepang, while Valentino Rossi is just riding for pride having never seriously threatened to stop the 22-year-old’s domination this season.

Fiat Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi, who is likely to race on Bridgestone tyres next season in his bid to win his first title since 2005, said: “For sure now he (Stoner) is the rider to beat.

“He has the number one on his bike because he changes the number, and if you have the number one you are the man to beat for sure."

Casey Stoner will certainly start 2008 as the title favourite but the factory Ducati rider said this year’s championship would have been a much closer affair had Valentino Rossi not made key mistakes.

Rossi’s title hopes hit the skids when he crashed out of the German MotoGP in the Sachsenring while Casey Stoner was suffering severe problems with his Bridgestone tyres.

That result started a sequence of four successive races where Valentino Rossi failed to score a rostrum finish.

“Two riders from Michelin are complaining a lot about their situation but like I’ve said there have been a lot of races where we have not been at our best performance.

“Unfortunately Valentino wasn’t able to capitalise on this. He made a mistake and lost a lot of points for this reason. The world championship would be a lot closer if this hadn’t happened,” said Casey Stoner.

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt