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Rossi trying to close the gap.

After being helpless to prevent Casey Stoner riding to a huge 7.7sec victory in Qatar, Valentino Rossi is hoping to put up more of a fight in this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix.

Motegi has excellent memories for Rossi, who secured the 2008 MotoGP World Championship with a 1.9sec victory over Stoner in last September's event, a result which also helped Yamaha secure the Manufacturers' crown and Fiat Yamaha the Teams' title.

“My memories of last year at Motegi are incredible, because it was such a special victory after two years without the championship,” he said. “This year of course will be very different, it's only the second race and it will be quite strange going there so early in the championship.”

With the event moved forward, no championships will be decided this weekend, but Motegi could prove particularly significant in terms of the 2009 title chase.

If Stoner - fastest throughout 2009 pre-season testing and in every track session at Qatar - can continue to keep Rossi at bay, it will be a worrying blow for the Italian.

Instead, Rossi will be hoping to prove that Losail result was simply a 'blip' at a circuit where Stoner has always been strong - allowing The Doctor to get back on equal terms heading into the first European round on May 3 at Jerez.

“In Qatar we had one or two small areas that could have been better, so we will be trying hard to improve our setting during the practice time so that we're able to run at the front on Sunday,” said Rossi.

“I expect that Stoner will be strong again, so we just need to reduce the gap to him so that we can put up more of a fight.

“In the past Motegi hasn't been a great track for me and I've had some bad races there, but I think last year cancelled that all out so I hope it can be successful for us once again this year.”

“The first target will be to improve our setting in order to allow us to remain consistent for the whole race, which wasn't possible in Qatar,” added team manager Davide Brivio. “We will work hard in practice and hopefully we can give Valentino the tools to fight on Sunday.”

Prior to last year's victory, Rossi had taken just a single victory at the Twin Ring Motegi, back in 2001 before the advent of four-stroke MotoGP machinery.

Both Rossi and team-mate Jorge Lorenzo will make a stop in Tokyo on the way to Motegi, where they will be helping Yamaha to launch a new R1.

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waz - Unregistered

April 20, 2009 1:52 PM

Without taking a thing away from Casey's Qatar win, let's hope Motegi is the true 'opener' for the season. In recent history we've not had two riders anywhere near the talent of Rossi and Stoner, so it would be a shame to see a season of one-horse races, either with Rossi or Stoner a mile in front. In the end Stoner is showing no signs of slowing down, so Rossi and Yamaha need to lift their game. Any arguments about Stoner having better equipment or whatever are null and void - no one else can ride that bike. On current form he and Vale are equals in all respects. I remember when Garry McCoy was running away from Vale and smoking it up through corners while he was at it ... great days.

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