Qatar MotoGP: Jerry Burgess assesses Casey Stoner threat

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Valentino Rossi’s legendary crew chief Jerry Burgess has inevitably marked Ducati’s Casey Stoner as the biggest threat to the Italian’s hopes of clinching a seventh MotoGP title in 2009.

Assessing the potential threat from his fellow Aussie during the 2009 MotoGP campaign, Burgess believes Stoner will again be Rossi’s closest contender after dominating winter testing.

Stoner has won 16 races compared to Rossi’s 13 since their rivalry started at the beginning of 2007, and Burgess told MCN: “We could see from last year that Casey was very strong at certain times in the championship.

“He won the last race of last season and he won in Phillip Island. But he didn’t win in Sepang or Motegi, but overall he was the next most successful package out there.

“It is only logical that we consider him and Ducati a long with the Honda to be the major threats.”

Stoner has vowed to adopt a more aggressive approach in 2009 to try and wrestle the crown out of Rossi’s grasp.

But Burgess said it would be difficult for the 23-year-old to ride anymore aggressively to cope with the threat presented by Rossi, who starts the 2009 season just three victories short of 100 wins in world championship racing.

“I don’t think that is something you can make a conscious decision about. I think that’s part of the way you normally ride.

“To make that sort of statement is certainly what Casey wants to do, but whether it comes as easy as saying that when you are using split second judgement at very high speed, it is not always as easy to say this time I’m going to do that.

“It is not really something that has to be forced because there are issues when you push out of a comfort zone and find yourself in a situation your not totally familiar with.

“But Casey has identified he feels this could be part of his overall package that could be improved and that’s a positive thing on his part, “added Burgess.

While Stoner has been in sparkling form all winter since returning from major left wrist surgery in November, one question mark has hung over the 2007 world champion’s early season potential.

Stoner hasn’t completed anything like a full race distance during testing, but Burgess believes it won’t prove a major handicap.

“Casey has never been one for doing a lot of laps, so we don’t know how he will be until he faces the race. Most of his mistakes last year came after five or six laps when he was pushing hard.

“But he didn’t go through 2008 and not learn anything, so I’m not going to make predictions about how many laps he’s done or how his wrist is. I would expect regardless of how his wrist is now it will only improve.”

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt