The big 4 don't like losing to Ducati. All the brands are probably closer now than they have been for years (giving Ducati an edge in peak hp). There are always a full mix of bikes at the front.
IMO Casey Stoner has just stepped up to the next level. Always a great talent, but as a prep school athlete goes collegiate and then professional, Casey's light has come on this year. Anybody who is saying it's all bike is freakin' blind...(that'll probably get a rise from the crowd) the kid is riding masterful races, managing his tires well, and not giving any quarter to Valentino or anyone else.
It's time to enjoy what is going on with #27. In a few years we'll be able to say, "I remember when..."
2002 ST4S-DP carbon cans, airbox kit, Ducati Designs headlight, Pazzo levers, Corbin seat, Throttlemeister, fender eliminator...GONE