The Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez could be make-or-break in terms of Casey Stoner's plan to keep in close contact with the championship lead during the early stages of the 2009 season - before his favoured events later in the year.
Stoner believes points lost in the early part of last season, rather than back-to-back accidents at Brno and Misano, were the main cause of his 2008 title defeat.
As such, the determined Australian has been focussing on making the new carbon fibre GP9 effective on every type of circuit as he seeks to regain his crown from Valentino Rossi.
A lights-to-flag victory in the Qatar night race was a perfect start, although front brake problems at the end of a rain-interrupted Motegi weekend saw the Ducati Marlboro star slip to a close third in the title chase - three points behind Jorge Lorenzo and two from Valentino Rossi - with a fourth place finish.
This weekend's event will be the most significant so far for Stoner and Ducati, since Jerez has been a bogey circuit for the Desmosedici ever since the switch to 800cc engines in 2007.
Stoner has finished fifth and eleventh in his previous Spanish GP appearances for Ducati, but led last month's pre-season test and a strong result this weekend would strike fear into his opponents.
By contrast, a repeat of 2008 - including podiums for Lorenzo or Rossi - would see Stoner once again lose touch with the title leaders.
“I've never really done well at Jerez but in the winter test we worked well and set some quick times so we'll try to use that as the base for a positive weekend,” said the #27. “You need good handling at this track and a bike that allows you to get into the corner quickly and then onto the gas straight away, as well as having good stability.
“I think we've taken a step forward in this area with the GP9 and as long as we don't get bad weather or some other kind of setback then we should find a good set-up for Jerez.
“Some of our better tracks are coming up later in the season but if we stay focused and keep working as we are doing then we can still put some decent results on the board,” he declared. “The start of the season has been better for us this year than it was last year so we have to try and keep our standards up.”
First free practice at Jerez takes place on Friday afternoon.