Casey Stoner isn't underestimating the task ahead of him if he is to end Valentino Rossi's seven-race win streak at the Italian's home grand prix - and hand Ducati a long awaited Mugello victory on Sunday.
“We know Valentino is fast, he's won so many times here. Last year we gave it out best, but it wasn't good enough,” said Stoner, who lost out to Rossi by 2.2sec last season.
“Valentino is going to be very, very difficult to beat here. He's got a lot of pressure on him, but he normally performs very well at this circuit.
“I've never had a victory here but I've always been quite fast. We've usually had mixed fortunes; bad qualifying and good race, bad race after good qualifying. So we'll see what happens this year. I really enjoy this circuit.
“It depends what mood its in!” joked Stoner, when asked if Mugello suits the Ducati. “Sometimes we come here and don't have to touch the setting. Just fine tune it. Other times we've had to go upside-down and back-to-front just to be competitive with the front guys.
“But I believe we've got a more competitive package than we've had for the past two seasons and I'm quite confident that we can at least be competitive. Whether we can win the race or not is another thing.”
Stoner starts this weekend's race joint second with Rossi and just one point behind Jorge Lorenzo. Fourth placed Dani Pedrosa is a further eight points behind.
“After four races, compared with last year, we're the only rider in the top four who has actually improved in points,” highlighted Stoner.
“Everyone was saying at the start of the season it was between myself and Valentino but I've always said 'expect the unexpected'. No-one expected me to be up front in 2007 and we won the championship.
“Jorge was fast last year and now he has one year of confidence, Dani had problems with his knee and people discarded him but he's had three podiums. Everybody is riding really well at the moment so we've just got to try and step it up.”
Mugello is used frequently by Ducati for testing.