Former world champion Casey Stoner will struggle to match the might of the Japanese MotoGP machines this season, according to countryman Chris Vermeulen.
Vermeulen, a winner in the elite series for Suzuki who has returned to world superbikes this year, says Stoner’s smaller Italian Ducati team got everything right in his title-winning year of 2007.
But he says while Stoner will be competitive, he is unlikely to be able to snare a second crown.
“I think it’s always going to be hard for him to win against the might of the big Japanese on a Ducati,” Vermeulen said.
“I think he’s one of the most talented riders out there. He doesn’t care, he just gets on and twists the throttle and he does it very well.
“I hope for him that he’s up there challenging but I realistically think that Yamaha and Honda are going to be harder for Ducati to beat this year.
“Ducati were really at an advantage when the 800cc came out even though Honda built the rules around it but the Japanese seem better at refining things and improving,” Vermeulen said.
“I’m not taking anything away from Ducati but there are much bigger manufacturers and the bike plays such a big role in MotoGP.
“I don’t know what Ducati have got in the pipeline or anything but that’s what I’m seeing from outside.
“I think Casey’s going to be in there with Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa but whether he can actually have a chance at that championship we’ll have to wait and see.
“I think the ’07 bike was very good – not better than any other bike – but he adapted, but there were three or four other Ducatis out there that he beat as well, so you can’t take anything away from him.
“But you have to make your own luck and your own opportunities and Ducati just got it perfect,” he said.