Casey Stoner: ‘Valentino Rossi is the man to beat’

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Casey Stoner reckons Italian rival and nine-times world champion Valentino Rossi will be his main adversary as the Aussie sets his sights on regaining the MotoGP crown in 2010.

Speaking at the launch of Ducati’s 2010 MotoGP squad at the Madonna di Campiglio ski resort in Italy this morning, the 24-year-old singled out Rossi as the man to beat given the Fiat Yamaha star’s recent domination of the premier class.

Since Stoner crushed Rossi to win the inaugural 800cc title in 2007, Rossi has hit back in stunning fashion to win the ’08 and ’09 title race.

And looking ahead to the 2010 campaign, which kicks off under the spectacular Qatar floodlights on April 11, Stoner said: “Obviously Valentino is the one to beat because he’s won the championship for the last two years in a row now.

“Valentino has been there for a long time now. He once was the young gun and now he’s the old hand but we will have to try and take him down next year. Valentino is a fantastic rider and he’s been very consistent and he doesn’t make many mistakes.

“We’ve seen a lot more from him recently when he’s been under pressure a bit more but I don’t know if there is anything other riders would like to be more like him.

“I enjoy being myself on the bike and whether I win championships or not, I’m doing my best and that’s all I want to do.”

Stoner also refused to rule out the big threat likely to be posed by confident Spaniard Jorge Lorenzo, who is set for his third season on board Yamaha’s dominant factory YZR-M1 machine.

“Both have their strong points because sometimes Valentino can be very fast and strong during a weekend but in a race struggle a little bit.

“But other times you think he is struggling and he will pull it out for the race and do very well. Jorge sometimes is a little easier to understand.

“If things aren’t going well for him then he normally doesn’t improve for the race. But normally he is very strong throughout the weekend and that continues for the race.

“They both have different strong points and different ways of approaching the weekend,“ added Stoner, who failed to mount a serious title assault in 2009 after an illness ravaged campaign.

Stoner is now fully recovered from the fatigue issues that severely blunted his challenge last season and will be out on track on the new GP10 machine when winter testing resumes in Sepang on February 4.

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt