First place in the 2008 MotoGP World Championship may have been concluded in Valentino Rossi's favour at the Japanese Grand Prix on September 28, but the fight to avoid finishing last is far more closely contested.

Whilst Rossi heads to the final two rounds of the 2008 championship an uncatchable 87 points clear, 13th to 18th places in the riders' world championship are covered by just 14 points.

Alice's Sylvain Guintoli currently leads that 'battle', his 60 points placing the Frenchman five clear of Honda Gresini rookie Alex de Angelis, with Randy de Puniet a single digit further adrift for Honda LCR.

After those three satellite riders come three struggling factory riders, with Ducati's Marco Melandri presently three points from de Puniet but just one point ahead of future Kawasaki team-mate John Hopkins.

Anthony West, who has lost his seat to Melandri, is currently 18th and last of the full time riders, but is now just four points away from Hopkins and the 'honour' of finishing the season as the top ZX-RR rider.

West qualified on the second row at Sepang - venue for this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix - last season, but was forced to surrender fifth position in the race when he was penalised for lining up on the wrong grid position.

"It would be great if I could repeat the pace I had in qualifying last season, but I feel a little unsure of what we can realistically achieve, as it's been tough going in the last few races," said West. "Hopefully the Malaysian heat will work to our advantage and we can put ourselves back in the top ten."

Behind the 18 grand prix regulars, wild-cards Ben Spies (20 points), Jamie Hacking (5 points) and Tadayuki Okada (2 points) are the only other riders to have scored world championship points so far this season.