Twelve months ago Valentino Rossi arrived at Misano chasing Casey Stoner's MotoGP lead but left with no points to show for following a mechanical failure. This season though, the tables have been reversed as Rossi returns to his home round with a big lead and a confidence high...

With his home town of Tavullia situated just 15km away, an army of Rossi fans are expected to descend on the San Marino round of the championship once again to cheer on their hero towards a possible sixth title.

Indeed, Rossi was squarely on the back foot coming to Misano last season, but with two races in his hand and just six remaining, he heads back there very much in charge this time around.

Extending his lead to 50 points after winning at Brno, Rossi is feeling far more relaxed on this occasion, even if his primary target this weekend is to go some way to making amends for his problems last year.

"I'm really excited to be going to Misano in such good shape and leading the championship," he said. "Last year the race was a huge disappointment for us, a very low point of the season and especially sad because it happened in front of my home fans.

"But this time things are very different; we've had two fantastic races in a row and we are feeling very strong and very confident. We are out to make up for 2007!

"Misano is so close to my home town of Tavullia that I know there will be an army of Italian fans there, and I hope it's going to be a great party for all of them.

"Last year there was some terrible weather before the race as well so I really hope that this year we have sunshine and we can enjoy a fantastic race by the sea!"

Team manager Davide Brivio, meanwhile, has given Rossi the target of a podium finish in order to keep the pressure on his direct rivals, most notably Stoner and Ducati.

"Last year we arrived in Misano with a 60-point disadvantage to Stoner and now we are 50 ahead so the situation is completely reversed and obviously that's great for us. Having said that, we still have six difficult races left and there are circuits coming up where we know our rivals will be very strong.

"Misano is one of the places where last year we were not so bad so it could be one of the places we can fight. It is difficult to overtake but I expect and hope for another good show.

"Valentino's targets haven't changed since the start of the season - the first priority is to be on the podium, which is even more crucial at this stage, and when possible fight to win. Those objectives remains the same regardless of the points situation."

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just like assen 2004...

My prediction
Practice:
1st Stoner, Stoner, Stoner...
Qualifying:
1st Stoner, 2nd Rossi, 3rd Pedrosa/Lorenzo/Edwards

Race:
Lap1: 1st Stoner, 2nd Rossi, 3rd who knows?
Lap10: 1st Stoner, 2nd Rossi
Penultimate Lap: 1st Stoner, 2nd Rossi
Last Lap: 1st Rossi, 2nd Stoner