Shinya Nakano is aiming to score first MotoGP podium since 2006, in front of home fans at Motegi on Sunday.

The Japanese, whose MotoGP future appears increasingly uncertain, finished third as a Kawasaki rider in the 2004 Motegi event, but has stood on the rostrum just once since - at Assen 2006.

Having moved to San Carlo Honda Gresini for 2008, Nakano struggled to make an impression during the first half of the season, but responded to the surprise gift of a factory RCV from Brno onwards with fourth position during his first outing on the new machinery.

The two rounds since have been less fruitful - culminating in the loss of Nakano's perfect 2008 point-scoring record last time out at Indianapolis - but the former 250cc title runner-up has high hopes for his home event.

"I can't wait to race in front of my friends and family - it all gives me extra motivation to do well. Motegi is a circuit I know really well and my objective is to finish on the podium - I won't try to hide it," he declared. "So far my best result this season has been fourth place at Brno so my home Grand Prix in Japan represents the perfect opportunity to better that.

"The new bike, which I have only been using for three races, has a good balance and I am convinced it will adapt well to the characteristics of the track. At Misano and Indianapolis, where amongst other things the weather didn't help, things didn't go well but I'm sure I can bounce back at Motegi.

"The most important thing this weekend is that the weather stays stable so that we can do our job on the bike and put together a good rhythm for the race," he added.

Rookie team-mate Alex de Angelis has also taken a best race finish of fourth (twice) so far this season and arrives at the final four rounds with his MotoGP future already secure. de Angelis will stay at Gresini for 2009, when he looks set to be joined by Toni Elias.

"Motegi is quite a technical circuit and I like it a lot. The section after the tunnel, which is a series of fast corners, is my strong part. Over the years in 250cc I have made so many passes there," Alex revealed.

"It certainly won't be an easy race for us because there are so many hard acceleration points coming out of slow corners. Having said that I feel very confident about this final part of the season. The more experience I have in MotoGP the more relaxed and confident I feel ahead of each weekend.

"Also, having renewed my contract for 2009 can only help me to relax and focus," he continued. "I hope that Motegi can be the start of a positive end to the season, especially because after Japan we have other tracks that favour us such as Phillip Island and Valencia, where I have enjoyed the best moments of my career."

"The Grand Prix of Japan is a special event for us. We can claim to be the most Japanese team in MotoGP so we consider it to be almost our third home grand prix of the season, meaning there is extra pressure to get a good result," stated team manager Fausto Gresini.

"I think the potential is there and we're all hopeful of a good race from Shinya. After starting out really well with the new bike at Brno he has unfortunately struggled with two difficult races but hopefully at Motegi he can get back amongst the frontrunners.

"Alex is demonstrating continual progress in his rookie season and I think these final few races will see him challenge for his best results," added the former grand prix racer.

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