Sick, sore Stoner still a threat, says Rossi
Casey Stoner lines up for this weekend’s German motorcycle grand prix battling anaemia, gastritis and bruised ribs – but series leader Valentino Rossi says the Australian remains a major threat.
Stoner was diagnosed with the complaints after tests following the US Grand Prix and will also be hampered by the injury suffered during a qualifying crash at Laguna Seca.
World champion Rossi remains wary, despite the fact Stoner has been unfit for most of the season.
The title chase has developed into a three-way battle between Rossi, who leads with 151 points, Spaniard Jorge Lorenzo on 142 and Stoner on 135.
“For me it’s a great mistake to think that Stoner is not competitive this year or that he is finished because he was behind in the last three races and sick on the podium,” Rossi told motorcyclenews.com.
“I expect him very strong for the rest of the year and he is still a massive rival.”
Stoner has fought through illness at the past three races, in Spain, Holland and the US but has still managed to finish third, third and fourth respectively.
He says the strength of his Ducati Desmosedici GP9 has masked his own recent weakness.
Stoner now faces a demanding schedule of five races in quick succession before a break after the San Marino GP. He will compete in the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island on October 18.
But he is confident he will gradually regain his strength and be in a position to pressure Rossi and Lorenzo over the coming months.
“Hopefully step by step I will feel better,” Stoner said.
“I still don’t feel like I am 100 per cent but the biggest problem now is that my ribs are very painful after the crash in qualifying in the US.
“It will be probably another hard weekend in Germany, but as always, we will do our best to stay as much as possible close to the lead of the Championship.”
Ducati boss Livio Suppo said Stoner still needed to be careful not to over-extend himself while he recovers.
“This is a delicate time for Casey but we know he is made of stern stuff,” he said.
Meanwhile, it appears Stoner will be dogged by Rossi for several more years as he attempts to add to the world championship he won in 2007.
Rossi has told his Yamaha team owners that he plans to continue racing until at least 2013.
The 30-year-old has won eight world titles in the premier class.© AAP 2013