Valentino Rossi believes Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner are the favourites for the 2011 MotoGP World Championship after getting a first look at the Ducati GP11 he will ride this season.
The Italian legend, a nine-time world champion, has made the switch from Yamaha to the Bologna marque as he looks to manage the rare feat of winning top-class crowns with three different manufacturers.
Hopes in his homeland are high that the 31-year-old, who will partner his ex-Honda team-mate Nicky Hayden, can return Ducati to the heights of their dominant 2007 campaign, which saw Australian Stoner convincingly take the title.
But Rossi, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, believes defending champion and former Yamaha team-mate Lorenzo and new Honda recruit Stoner will start the year as the men to watch.
"I think that those two are going to be the favourites for this season," Rossi told reporters at the Wroom event at Madonna di Campiglio. "Lorenzo knows the bike very well, he has plenty of experience, and last year he rode extremely well, he practically never made any mistakes.
"Stoner, I believe, if he wants to fight against Lorenzo has to try to become a bit more consistent over time, he has some inconsistency. But now he has the Honda, which is really, really strong, it's a bit faster than the Yamaha in terms of its engine, so he could have a slight technical advantage. It should be a nice challenge between those two."