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MotoGP: Stoner and Rossi speak out before Mugello

Rossi hasn't been beaten at Mugello since 2001

The 6th round of the MotoGP World Championship takes place at Mugello this weekend

Mugello is a fast circuit that has traditionally favoured the pace of the 990cc Ducati and pace isn't something the new 800cc Desmosedici is short of.

Already one of the most eagerly anticipated dates on the calendar, this year's visit to Tuscany has the extra spice of an Italian manufacturer leading the World Championship, while the homecoming of Valentino Rossi to his adoring fans always guarantees an electric atmosphere and a performance to match from the mercurial 28-year-old Italian.

Rossi has not been beaten on home soil since 2001, when he crashed out in a wet race, and his past three victories for Yamaha are unequalled in measures of brilliance and bravery. Mike Hailwood, who won the Isle of Man TT for five consecutive seasons in the 1960s, is the only rider in history to have held such a firm stronghold over his home Grand Prix.

Rossi spoke out ahead of the Mugello race: "We hoped that Le Mans would be a place where we might have been able to win back some points on Stoner, but unfortunately the weather played against us," said Rossi, who trails the Australian by 21 points in the current rider standings. "We stayed in France for two days of testing and made a lot of progress, especially with the tyres. We also tried some new engine modifications, just small details, which we think will help us in Mugello."

"As everyone knows I have a very special relationship with Mugello. I have won there many times, including the last three years with Yamaha, and I've had some of the greatest races of my life there. Even though I will have a second home race this year at Misano, Mugello is something incredible and the fans and atmosphere there are always unbelievable. It's a fantastic track but of course the straight is very long and we know we're going to have a very hard battle on our hands. At least we can rely on the weather... I hope!"

The Ducati squad go into their home GP, leading the MotoGP world championship for the first time in their history. Casey Stoner hopes to leave the weekend with an ever greater lead. Stoner spoke out before the race:

"Mugello is one of my favourite tracks. We've had some pretty good results there, including my first-ever pole position and I've made the podium in 125s. I think the bike is going to be really strong, the track's got a nice main straight which helps and some nice fast and flowing corners which the Ducati should like, so we should be able to do all right. It would be a nice one to win but it's going to be really tough work beating Loris and the rest of the Italian riders. But I feel we're fast enough, the Ducati and the Bridgestones are going really well and if we can find the right settings we'll be there.

"At Mugello you need a bike that changes direction good because there's a lot of high-speed left/right flicks and the faster you go, the harder it is to change direction. You need a pinpoint accurate bike because you've got to hit the right points at the right time, and if you don't do that you lose a lot of time, that's what makes this track so hard."

Rossi's track record versus Stoner's out and out form. Who's going to come out on top?

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