Casey Stoner hopes that the return of Valentino Rossi to MotoGP will mean that the Italian's Yamaha team-mate and title leader, Jorge Lorenzo, soon has a battle on his hands once again.

Lorenzo was just nine points in front of Rossi when the Italian broke his leg during practice for round four at Mugello.

Although Honda's Dani Pedrosa went on to win in Italy, Lorenzo has won comfortably in the three rounds since to build a 51 point lead over Pedrosa.

Stoner, who crashed from the lead at round one at Qatar, admits he has also failed to step-up and challenge the #99 in Rossi's absence - the Australian only taking his first podiums of the year with third at the last two rounds.

"I haven't really been able to really challenge Jorge so far this season, but once Vale gets back up to speed then I'm sure he'll give him a run for his money!" said Stoner, during the pre-event press conference.

The former world champion also commented on his newly confirmed switch to Honda for 2011.

"It was an emotional decision because there have been a lot of good times with Ducati, but we decided we wanted a new challenge for next season," explained Stoner.

"I'm excited about this weekend and the rest of the season, but I'm also looking forward to what the future will hold."


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