Jerry Burgess predicts fierce Casey Stoner challenge

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Jerry Burgess reckons Honda and Casey Stoner will pose the biggest threat to Valentino Rossi’s hopes of capturing the MotoGP title at the first attempt for Ducati in 2011.

Rossi’s legendary crew chief has backed Honda to mount its strongest challenge for title glory in years after it lured Aussie Stoner away from Ducati.

Burgess told MCN: “You’d be silly not to be concerned about what everybody has got but Honda is the big company on the march. I feel at Yamaha now the development direction will be coming from other people like Jorge (Lorenzo).

"Honda is probably the interesting one that has some scope to work. Yamaha we pretty much know what they have got and what they have built for next year and without evaluating Jorge from a development point of view, they probably won’t change much at all.

"I can’t imagine Jorge asking for much more than a faster engine but I know they will struggle to build that. It will be very hard and a slow evolution of what they have got.

"It is a very good engine with a smooth power delivery and it has won the last three world championships, so there shouldn’t be a lot to worry about.

Burgess reckons that Ducati and Rossi are already playing catch up against Yamaha and Honda with Rossi’s on-going right shoulder injury likely to hamper him throughout the pre-season schedule.

Burgess added: “Jorge is on a bike he knows and understands and he will be able to ride it well all year. He will know the tracks where he is good at and where the bike works well and what set-up works. We’ll be experimenting and working at every races, as will Casey.

"Honda and Yamaha are in a position where they are putting a lot of pressure on us to perform well.  If any of the three groups has got its back to the wall it is probably us at this moment in time but we have been there before and done okay.”

Pre-season testing for the 2011 world championship kicks off in Sepang tomorrow (Tuesday) with the entire 17-rider grid in action, including British rider Cal Crutchlow making his second appearance for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 squad.

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt