MotoGP: Casey Stoner’s biggest test still to come

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Valentino Rossi’s crew chief Jerry Burgess believes Casey Stoner’s biggest test is still to come as he paid tribute to the Australian’s brilliant 2007 MotoGP world championship-winning campaign.

Casey Stoner became the first Aussie to win the premier class crown while not riding under the wing of Jerry Burgess. This was when Stoner’s sixth place in last weekend’s Japanese MotoGP condemned Fiat Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi to his second successive MotoGP world championship defeat.

Jerry Burgess though believes the acid test for Ducati's Casey Stoner will come next season when he looks at mounting a successful defence against what is certain to be a stronger threat from Valentino Rossi and Honda rival Dani Pedrosa.

Asked whether the biggest examination of Casey Stoner would come now he has to develop the factory Ducati GP7 to keep the likes of Valentino Rossi at bay, Jerry Burgess told MCN: “Certainly that’s the next hurdle and chore that he needs on his CV.

“Ducati have done a great job in producing the bike this year for him and they will be taking down info and data and problem areas on the bike from all their riders, but they would have been listening specifically to Casey.

“He will always be the leader in that team. I can’t see anybody in the foreseeable future coming along and doing anything other than contributing his bit. I think he will still be the standout rider at Ducati next year,” said Burgess.

Burgess also joined a number of other people in the paddock in saying that Casey Stoner deserved to be given all the credit for his brilliant 2007 season, which saw the 21-year-old shrug off his prolific crasher tag to win eight races.

Casey Stoner has had to contend with accusations he’s only winning because of the superior performance of his Ducati and Bridgestone tyres.

But Jerry Burgess, who won world titles with Wayne Gardner and Mick Doohan, said: “Without any question he should be given the credit because there are three other guys on the exactly the same package. The only thing you can factor in is Casey.

“I’ve seen it before with Mick (Doohan) and Wayne (Gardner). Once they start to win they understand what they are doing. I didn’t see it so much with Valentino because he was winning way before we got hold of him.

“But even when Valentino started to win on the 500 he continued to win and I don’t think Casey is any different. When you have beaten everybody out there a couple of times you don’t doubt yourself anymore.

“And I don’t think Casey ever doubted his ability. He’s done an excellent job.

“He was always very fast in his first year and he showed great speed on the bike generally and was able to make lap times very quick, just as he has done this year. He’s in a top team now and doing a top job.”

Jerry Burgess was crew chief to Mick Doohan when the Brisbane rider dominated the premier class with five successive titles between 1994 and 1998. And Burgess reckons there are similarities between the Aussie legend and Casey Stoner.

“You can certainly see a bit of Mick Doohan in him in his attitude to some things. But that’s what it takes. He knows what he needs and from what I know he’s fairly short with the words if things aren’t right.

“But give him what he wants and he will do the rest,” added Burgess.

Burgess admitted that like so many others he didn’t consider that Stoner would pose the serious threat he proved to be in 2007 when he signed for Ducati 11 months ago.

He told MCN: “Last year when he signed I don’t expect I did. When I spoke to him in previous seasons the objective was always to get into MotoGP and that was always more important than actually where he was.

“But he showed enough potential to certainly get our (Yamaha) attention. In the end he moved to Ducati and I’m sure he’s very happy where he is and I’m sure they are happy they’ve got him.

“The logical progression would have been to see Casey closer to the front than he was last year, but now he’s a bit too close to the front for our liking here at Yamaha but I’m very happy for him that its worked so for him. He’s been able to achieve the goal he set out to achieve.”

Pondering the question of whether Casey Stoner offered a more potent threat to Valentino Rossi in the future than his past sworn enemies like Max Biaggi and Sete Gibernau, Jerry Burgess added “From our point of view we will be looking at him and whoever else is going fast.

“We haven’t seen a great deal from Dani yet and the fact that Casey has been successful would be grinding away at Dani more so than anybody else.

“Rightly so because Dani put the wood on Casey in the other classes and everybody here expected the next genuine champion was going to be Dani.”

Jerry Burgess said time will tell on whether Casey Stoner has the capability of becoming the dominant force in MotoGP, with Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi winning another four straight world titles after their maiden success.

He added: ““We have to wait and see but obviously I would like to make that as difficult as I can for him. If he’s up to it then we respect the effort and the talent. It’s our job to make sure that he doesn’t do that being on the other side of the fence.”

Jerry Burgess said he knew Valentino Rossi’s world title fight against Casey Stoner was going to be a battle not even the Italian’s talent could win way back at the Laguna Seca MotoGP in American in late July.

“In Qatar in 2006 Casey led that for a long distance so we knew he would be fast in certain race tracks. He was fast in Qatar, we led the race and he passed us.

“We could see a difference in machinery but the riding was on a par with each other. There’s certainly nothing like getting that first win out of the way.

“By China we knew the speed of the Ducati and by Le Mans he was away by that stage. Certainly from my point of view all possible chance of the world championship went at Laguna.

“Realistically perhaps the fall in Germany was a big thing. Out of all that was what was glaringly obvious from Le Mans through to Assen was we entered Le Mans 21-points behind Casey and after Assen we were still 21-points behind him.

“So in four races he hadn’t got away and we hadn’t closed the gap. As we moved on it wasn’t like last year when Nicky (Hayden) couldn’t beat us. It was a case of a guy who could beat us.

“If we could beat him one week he was just as likely to beat us the next. From then I was fairly convinced at Laguna that barring a lot of luck falling our way it was all over,” said Burgess.

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt