Casey Stoner is confident he will be the rider to stop Valentino Rossi from making it a consecutive hat-trick of MotoGP titles as he plots a return to the top of the podium.

Stoner won the world championship in 2007, but Rossi prevented him from defending it in 2008, while the Australian's hopes in 2009 were hampered by fitness woes.

Nonetheless, Stoner, who won two of the final three races in 2009 on his return to competition, insists he is back to full fitness and ready to fight for the MotoGP crown once again.

Citing Rossi and his Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo as his immediate challengers, Stoner maintains both riders pose different styles of competition.

"I think it was a big achievement for us last year to be within striking distance of Jorge in the last race (of 2009), and unfortunately not even start it. Both riders have their strong points. Sometimes Valentino can be very fast in a weekend and struggle in the race a little bit. Other times you think he's struggling and in the race he will do very well.

"Jorge is sometimes a little easier to understand. When things aren't going well for him throughout a weekend it normally doesn't improve for the race. He's often very strong throughout the weekend and that continues into the race. They're both very different and that's how you have to approach them."

Stoner also paid tribute to team-mate Nicky Hayden, who returns for a second season after a troublesome debut campaign with the Italian manufacturer. Crediting him for a good atmosphere in the Ducati garage, Stoner is tipping the former champion for a big step forward in 2010.

"I'm also sure Nicky will have plenty to celebrate this year - he had a difficult and unlucky first season with the team but he improved a lot towards the end and he was on the pace. I'd be happy for him because we have a great relationship and I think it is unusual to have an atmosphere in the garage like the one we have.

"There have been a few changes to the team with the arrival of Vittoriano (Guareschi) and Alessandro (Cicognani) but they are both doing a great job and I can't wait to get back out on track for the first test of the year.

"The objective for 2010 is to win, as it is for everybody of course, but whether or not we manage it the most important thing is that we give it our best shot and I feel we can do that now."


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