This weekend's Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi once again marks round 15 of the MotoGP World Championship, but the Kawasaki Racing Team will return home with significantly less points than one year ago.
This time last year, Kawasaki sat fifth in the constructors' championship (with 94 points) and seventh in the teams' classification (112 points). One year on and it remains fifth in the constructors' championship - now last following the withdraw of Team Roberts - but with 71 points, whilst slipping to ninth in the teams' championship (87 points).
Only the one-man Honda LCR outfit is behind Kawasaki in the teams' classification - while JiR Team Scot's single-rider entry, rookie Andrea Dovizioso, has managed to collect 42 points more than the combined total of Kawasaki's John Hopkins, Anthony West and US GP stand-in Jamie Hacking!
Injuries suffered by Hopkins have clearly influenced the points haul, but the 2008 ZX-RR has failed to build on the promise shown by the '07 design, which took a second place finish in the hands of Randy de Puniet at a wet/dry Motegi last season.
All of which means that the Kawasaki bosses present this weekend will probably be asked to once again wait for next year, when Kawasaki will field Marco Melandri alongside Hopkins - and also probably run a third ZX-RR - marking what will be Team Green's most high profile MotoGP presence since the four-stroke class was introduced in 2002.
"We are mainly concentrating on the development of the machine for next year, although it would be great to finish the final few rounds of 2008 with strong results," confirmed Hopkins, who has taken a best finish of fifth so far this season.
Hopkins and West are currently 17th and 18th in the world championship standings, with 41 points each. West, who has lost his Kawasaki ride for next season, has out-scored Hopper at the last three events and led the 2007 Japanese Grand Prix, until being force to serve a ride-through penalty.
"Motegi is a track that I know well, because I've done a lot of laps around there in the past," said Ant, who raced extensively in Japan aboard 1000cc machines during his younger years. "It's a very grippy circuit with an interesting layout. Last year we performed well there, particularly in qualifying, but a small mistake in the race meant we didn't quite achieve the result we were capable of. I know it's not going to be an easy ride for us this weekend, but it's Kawasaki's second home event, so I hope we can gain a strong result."
Motegi hasn't been the luckiest of tracks for Hopkins, but the 25-year-old Anglo-American is adamant that it is a circuit he enjoys.
"Motegi has never been a circuit that's been kind to me, as I've always had a lot of bad luck there. Even last year, which was my best season so far, Motegi was definitely my worst round. However, maybe this is the year we can turn it around after all of the bad luck we've had with injury," said John. "It's a track I actually enjoy, the fans and atmosphere are all a lot of fun, and the circuit layout is good too."
Kawasaki is the only MotoGP manufacturer without a race win since the start of the four-stroke era.