MotoGP: Valentino Rossi refusing to rule out Casey Stoner

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Shanghai MotoGP winner Valentino Rossi reckons it would be foolish to rule out defending champion Casey Stoner from the 2008 premier class title race.

The Aussie has struggled for form since making a brilliant start to the defence of his crown when he won the season’s opening clash in Qatar.

The 22-year-old returned to the podium for the first time since Qatar in China last weekend, but he finished a distant third to a dominant Rossi and title rival Dani Pedrosa.

Stoner was baffled by his failure to pose a more serious threat against Rossi and Pedrosa in Shanghai and has been growing increasingly frustrated at his disappointing early season form.

But Fiat Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi says Stoner is still a huge title threat in 2008, with the top four riders split by just 25-points after four races.

“I think the Ducati will still be strong but now the difference we suffered last year is not there anymore. Yamaha and Honda have improved a lot with the engine but I still think that Casey will be fighting all the way for the world championship.

“Last year Casey was impressive. He rode like a devil so he deserved the championship and he’s number one, but now we are closer. He is a great rival but it is possible to battle with him every Sunday.”

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt