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.

Martin Honda will field Julien Bill and former factory Yamaha rider Marc de Reuver, with the latter incredibly motivated for this forthcoming championship as he showed in several wins during the off season.

GP winner David Philippaerts has taken de Reuver's place at the newly named Yamaha Monster Motocross' line-up, while Max Nagl will be the sole Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team MX1 rider, although AXO KTM Silver Action's Jonathan Barragan will also use a factory bike after he switched from the Austrian Factory Team to the Italian based squad.

Other threats for defending champion Ramon could come from Kawasaki Racing Europe riders Tanel Leok and Manuel Priem, while TM's Alessio Chiodi and Aprilia's Cedric Melotte and Fabien Izoird will be aiming to challenge the front-running manufacturers.

After an incredible 2007, in which he won his second MX2 World Championship and his first MX1 GP win at Donington Park, it is hard to imagine that Yamaha Red Bull De Carli's Antonio Cairoli can do better in 2008.

Nevertheless, the charismatic Italian is taking no chances during what could be his last MX2 season.

"It has not been a bad pre-season period for me and we have been working with both the 250 and the 450," he said. "I did not regain the championship in 2006 after winning in 2005 and I won't be making the same mistakes that I did back then. I expect the competition to be harder this year and people like Tommy Searle and Nicolas Aubin will be quick. It will be interesting to see what the younger riders can do as well."

Red Bull KTM rider Searle, who finished runner up last year, will undoubtedly try his very best to dethrone Cairoli. The Brit is at his second season with the squad, and last in the world championship before heading to the AMA, so the 17-year-old will be giving his all.

Team-mate Tyla Rattray will be another rider on fire this year, after a 2007 campaign that earlier than expected after a knee injury. The South African finished a bitter fourth in the 2007 championship, but has the necessary consistency and experience to finally collect a title.

On the other hand countryman Gareth Swanepoel, riding for Molson Kawasaki Racing and having finished fifth last year, is expected to undergo a wrist operation and will therefore miss the opening rounds.

However, Molson can still count on Stephen Sword, now back to full fitness after a difficult comeback in 2007 - he returned to the GP scene at Uddevalla, Sweden, but was injured again at Namur, Belgium - and Paulin Gautier, who has joined the team after winning last year's European MX2 Championship. This will be the Frenchman's first full season in grand prix racing.

Fellow Frenchmen Nicolas Aubin (Ricci Racing Yamaha) and Pascal Leuret (Suzuki Swift Motocross) will be aiming high this year; as will solid Finn Matti Seistola of SRS Racing ST, Champ KTM's young gun Jeremy Van Horebeek and KTM UK's Shaun Simpson, who has starred in several pre-season races.

2008 will also mark the debut of a handful of riders from the UEM series, including NGS' Marvin Musquin, 3C Racing's Deny Philippaerts, Champ KTM's Joel Roelants, Bud Racing Kawasaki PSM Pastorello's Khounsith Vongsana. The latter team's line up will be completed by Australian newcomer Brenden Harrison.

Valkenswaard will be a tough challenge for them, battling with lots of experienced riders including GP winners Davide Guarneri of Ricci Racing, Erik Eggens of Suzuki Beursfoon and Carl Nunn of Suso MVR-D Suzuki, Jeremy Tarroux of AXO KTM Silver Action and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing's Rui Goncalves.

This weekend Yamaha Red Bull De Carli will also line up Alessandro Lupino but not Matteo Bonini, as the Italian is still doing rehabilitation work to his left shoulder after surgery.

Valkenswaard's Eurocircuit is a characteristic Dutch sandy circuit located at about 20 kilometres from the closest city Eindhoven. The Eurocircuit begun hosting Motocross races in 1980 and it has always been a popular venue of the FIM series.

After its absence from the 2005 and 2006 calendars, the world championship hampionship was back at Valkenswaard in style last year, welcoming 25,000 spectators. 2007 saw a renewed layout, with a different location of the start grid and the riding direction changed from anti clockwise to clockwise. This year the finish line will be closer to the starting area.

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