Rossi hopes to close on Stoner in Japan

Valentino Rossi is confident that he will be close enough to challenge Casey Stoner in this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix, despite the Ducati rider's runaway victory in Qatar

Rossi hopes to close on Stoner in Japan

Stoner dominated the whole Losail weekend, topping every session, and beating Rossi by half a second in qualifying and seven seconds in the race - although Rossi had lost ground early on with a slow start.

But although Rossi expects Stoner to remain tough to beat at Motegi, he believes that narrowing the gap is just a matter of improving his Yamaha's set-up.

"In Qatar we had one or two small areas that could have been better, so we will be trying hard to improve our setting during the practice time so that we're able to run at the front on Sunday," said Rossi.

"I expect that Stoner will be strong again, so we just need to reduce the gap to him so that we can put up more of a fight."

Last year Rossi clinched the title with victory at Motegi when it was held in its previous September date, but his team manager Davide Brivio acknowledged that the team arrives in Japan on the back foot this season.

"This year we go there with different targets and the first one will be to improve our setting in order to allow us to remain consistent for the whole race, which wasn't possible in Qatar," said Brivio. "We will work hard in practice and hopefully we can give Valentino the tools to fight on Sunday."

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