Having chipped away an injured Josh Coppins' huge 107 point lead to snatch a surprise title victory last season, despite failing to win a race, Teka Suzuki's Steve Ramon will be looking to silence his doubters in 2008.
"I had a very positive pre-season," said Ramon. "My riding is going well, my confidence is high and my fitness is very good. I'm really looking forward to the first GP this weekend."
But while Ramon heads into the new season confident, Coppins - who won five grands prix, took nine podiums and led more laps than any other rider in his first season with Yamaha - has been recovering from two broken toes on his right foot after a freak accident while training two weeks ago.
"Things are coming along well, it should be OK to race although the weekend will be more about damage-limitation for the championship instead of setting myself any specific targets," admitted the recently turned 31 year old who won In Valkenswaard to mark a memorable Yamaha debut twelve months ago.
"At first I thought I had broken my foot and my championship was ruined again but I'm happy with the rate of recovery," he continued. "The bones have been healing well it is just the wound and the skin tissue that is causing discomfort. I have no idea what it will be like until I get to the track though and start practice. Let's just see what we can get from this weekend and then move on. It can only get better."
After finishing as title runner up for the second year in a row, Kevin Strijbos left Suzuki for Kawasaki but has lost out on some pre-season track time due to a shoulder injury. On the other hand, team-mate Sebastien Pourcel had a positive winter and will be looking to build on his two grand prix wins and fourth in the standings during his rookie year.
Ken de Dycker, fifth last year, has replaced Strijbos at the factory Suzuki team. "I've been working hard and I hope I can do well this weekend," said the Belgian. "I'm looking forward to winning some races and of course I'd like to win the championship too."
But his former squad, CAS Honda, has been given a big boost for 2008 with the news that it (and Martin Honda) will be provided with full HRC factory machinery.
CAS' Mike Brown has been retained after a solid world championship comeback in 2007 and will team up with Scotland's Billy Mackenzie, a grand prix winner last year for Kawasaki.