Former world champion Casey Stoner is expecting another close battle in this weekend’s French MotoGP race.
The Aussie is currently lying second in the world championship standings with a victory and a third place in the season’s opening three races of 2009.
And the 23-year-old reckons this weekend’s Le Mans clash will again be a tough challenge as he tries to narrow the 11-point deficit to series leader and Fiat Yamaha star Valentino Rossi.
Stoner said: “It is going to be a long, open season – we’ve seen that with three winners and three championship leaders from the first three races and the fact that there are four of us within just a few points at the top.
"There is no point making predictions, the important thing is to continue working well and make sure we pick up as many points as possible in these races where we know it will be tough to come away with the ideal result.”
The 2007 world champion is confident he can become a closer threat for the victory on Sunday having been a distant fourth in Japan and a lonely third in Jerez.
“We’re on the back of two races that have really put us to the test but we’ve come out of them with decent results. Both Motegi and Jerez have characteristics that give us a few problems, especially the tight corners where our bike isn’t as reactive as usual.
"Even Le Mans is like that in a couple of places, it is not a fast and flowing track – on the contrary, it’s the classic stop and go layout that requires good braking, although you can take some nice, fun and fast lines on the way out of the turns.
"We’ll see what we’re capable of when we get there and how many points we’re able to bring home.”
Ducati will test a range of new electronics this weekend in Le Mans to help the performance of the new GP9.