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I said "maybe his first title with honda" because Rossi was not on the factory Repsol team and that may be debatable because I cannot see him getting more support than the factory team. So the NSR was the best bike on the grid but I do not think that Rossi's bike was "better" than the factory bikes. He may have been on a factory bike but at a satellite team (Nazurro) if I remember correctly (like Sic was, I would guess) but won the title. Anyway that is just conjecture because I was not there but just follows logic that a Factory team would not give a sat team more support and trick parts over their own team.
I agree the riders do not develop they give feedback and provide engineers with direction for development. I think (my own opinion) Rossi may be better at this than Stoner or just more experienced OR has more clout to get Factories (like Ducati/Yamaha)to listen!