Valentino Rossi is backing his Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo as the man to take over as the new winner of the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island.
For the past six years the race has been won by home hero Casey Stoner who is now firmly entrenched in retirement.
Stoner was untouchable at the seaside Island circuit with an unbroken winning streak with Ducati and Honda from 2007 until his retirement at the end of 2102.
Stoner will be a spectator at this year’s race in which Rossi expects Lorenzo to pile some late-season pressure on Honda rival and title favorite Marc Marquez.
But equally, Rossi expects that Marquez should be able to manage his current 43-point lead into a championship win over the final three races of the season.
“The most competitive rider at this track to take over from Casey is Jorge. He has the best speed and results here behind Casey, so I think Lorenzo is the best chance,” Rossi said.
“Marquez has never raced MotoGP here so will be difficult to beat Lorenzo, but not impossible. You never know in racing.
“And Marc will have extra pressure starting from this race because when you arrive close to the championship, it is like this.
“But is not a really difficult situation. Marc has three races and lot of points advantage, so he should be able to stay quiet and manage this.”
Marquez has won six races out 15 so far this season with Lorenzo on five wins, Dani Pedrosa with three and Rossi one.
And Rossi feels that Pedrosa may not find it so easy to repeat his impressive victory in last Sunday’s Malaysian GP at a much cooler Phillip Island.
“Pedrosa is not perfect at this track and sometimes he suffers in cold conditions, so Phillip Island is not one of the best circuits for Dani,” Rossi said.
And what of the great man himself? Rossi last won the Australian GP in 2005, on a Yamaha, and feels he can again challenge for a spot on the podium against the Spanish trio of Lorenzo, Marquez and Pedrosa.
“This is my target. Why not?” said Rossi who like Lorenzo was hampered by a dominant Honda 1-1 Sepang last Sunday.
“At Sepang the Hondas were very fast but I was fourth, just three seconds behind Jorge, so maybe the Hondas can have some problem.
“If I can stay close to Jorge, it means I can be on the podium at the Island.”