Valentino Rossi’s crew chief Jerry Burgess is confident the Italian will be able to defend a 50-point lead over arch rival Casey Stoner to win a sixth MotoGP crown in 2008.
But while Aussie Burgess believes Rossi will not surrender such a comfortable cushion with just six races remaining, he has refused to write off compatriot Stoner.
“What happened to Casey in Brno could happen to anyone in the next six races so we are a long way from being a done deal. But I’d rather be 50 in front than 25, or 50 behind", said Burgess, who has masterminded Rossi’s previous five titles with Honda and Yamaha.
Rossi recently said he believed that his July victory at Laguna Seca was a key point in the campaign, where he overturned Stoner’s electrifying practice form to register an unlikely win.
Burgess told MCN: “As so often happens in sport, anyone who thinks they have an easy run, even a football team, often get upstaged by somebody else. And this can’t just happen to the guy who is world champion but someone down the field a bit if you don’t pay enough attention. Laguna was avery good win for us and we followed that up with Brno, which allowed us to put pressure on Casey and it is all about putting pressure on the opposition through beating them or trying to beat them. When you get down to 25 points with seven or eight races to go you have to go one-for-one otherwise if the other guy wins five then he’s leading the championship. It was as important to stop Casey’s run as soon as we could.”
Burgess though refused to say Stoner was cracking under the intense pressure exerted by Fiat Yamaha rider Rossi in the last two races. Stoner ran off in the heat of battle at Laguna Seca to ruin his victory hopes, and he crashed out of the lead in Brno earlier this month while being closed down by Rossi.
“Anybody who believes that because they are leading Valentino, or in front of him in the race, are only kidding themselves that they are beating him. Just think back to guys like Luca Cadalora. If you were leading Luca on the last lap, that didn’t mean you’d won the race. Luca was still strong in that situation and Valentino is the same. The other riders know that and Casey knew it Brno after Laguna and irrespective of the practice times the race is a different scenario", said Burgess.
Looking ahead to the final six races, with Rossi heading into his home race in Misano this weekend, Burgess said it was vital to keep the pressure on.
“Last year we had a 12ks speed deficit to the Ducati coming to these races and last year we had a failure in Misano that we wouldn’t expect to have again. We weren’t that far back in Misano so if we can put some pressure on there and win as many races as Casey can - one wins week, the other next - then no one gains anything", said Burgess.