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Five time 500cc World Champion Mick Doohan has given his thoughts on the dominance of fellow Australian Casey Stoner and the relative performance of Valentino Rossi on the Ducati, ahead of this weekend’s Iveco Australian Grand Prix.
With five consecutive 500cc World titles and 54 Grand Prix wins under his belt, Doohan is one man who knows what it takes mentally to be the best in the sport and how to maintain your focus and desire to continue to be top of your game, in the premier class of motorcycling.
2011 has seen Stoner claim eight victories in the championship and build up a 40 point advantage over Jorge Lorenzo in the standings. The Repsol Honda rider can clinch his second world championship on home soil at Phillip Island in his first season with his new team, after four seasons as a Ducati rider.
In 2007, Stoner was a newcomer to Ducati and won on his debut on the Desmosedici in Qatar and achieved a further nine victories on his way to securing his maiden MotoGP World Championship crown. At the same time, highly experienced Loris Capirossi was the team mate to Stoner and earned one victory in that season.
It has been a different story for seven times World Champion Valentino Rossi in 2011. The Italian has one podium to his credit and is sixth in the championship, 161 points adrift of Stoner in his first year as a Ducati Team rider. Doohan believes the differences in performances underlines the supremacy of Stoner, rather than a decline in Rossi’s.
“Casey seemed to be, over the last few years, the only guy who could consistently pull results on that Ducati; it was night and day between him and his team mate and I think that confirms his dominance,” said Doohan. “Even though he hasn’t won the Championship in the last few years, it’s been obvious just how strong a rider, he is.”
“I think towards the end of his time at Ducati, he was riding that thing beyond what it was capable of,” commented Doohan. “Casey was in no man’s land a lot, which inherently leads to mistakes – which in bike racing is crashing! I think it’s the same thing with Rossi – he’s had a few crashes with it and has realised that riding in that position is only going to lead to more crashes, so let’s try and fix the bike! Which is easier said than done, to get it back into a race-winning position.”
Does Doohan believe we will see Rossi back to his best, fighting at the front of the field? “It’s hard to say,” he acknowledges, “He’s been around for a long while and I think that’s the key with any sportsman or sportswoman – how long can you remain completely immersed in the sport and forget about any outside influences? Rossi’s been around with the 125’s, 250’s, MotoGP; he’s got a lot of titles and a lot of seasons under his belt.”
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