Despite knocking the wind out of Casey Stoner's title charge during a thrilling Laguna Seca duel, Valentino Rossi knows he faces some of the toughest battles of his illustrious career to contain the 'formidable' young Australian during the final seven rounds of the 2008 season.
Having won the three races leading up to Laguna Seca Stoner, who believes he and Ducati are much stronger during the second half of the season, will now return from the summer break 25 points behind Rossi after finishing runner-up to the Italian in the USA.
But Stoner scored a mighty 146 points during the final seven rounds of last season, on his way to world championship glory, while Rossi managed just 64 points as he slipped to third in the standings.
The only difference in terms of circuits, between this year and last, is that Portugal was among the final seven last year, but was moved earlier in the 2008 calendar to make way for the new Indianapolis round.
"Last year, at most of these final circuits, we weren't able to fight at the top but we are working hard now to be able to provide Valentino with the most competitive package to allow him to race at the front, as he has for the majority of this year's races," said Rossi's Fiat Yamaha team manager Davide Brivio.
"Every race from now on will be very important and Brno could be one of the most difficult for us against our competitors," he warned.
Stoner won at Brno last season, when Rossi limped home in seventh, but the battle should be much closer in 2008 - with both riders now on Bridgestone tyres and Rossi's M1 considered the best all-round package on the MotoGP grid.
"Last year we had a bad time at Brno; I could only finish seventh and it was quite disheartening," admitted Rossi. "This year, however, we're going there in a very different frame of mind: leading the championship, following a great win and with our bike and tyres working very well. I've had a good summer break, just relaxing with my friends and family, but now I am really looking forward to going racing again."
Despite frustrating Stoner into a mistake at Laguna Seca, the Ducati star had been untouchable at Donington Park, Assen, Sachsenring and, prior to the race, Laguna Seca.