Triple 2008 rookie race winner Ryuichi Kiyonari will return to World Superbike action in this weekend's Portimao season finale, following surgery on the collarbone he broke during testing at Magny-Cours five weeks ago.
"I had the operation on my shoulder in Japan so I've just been relaxing at home there and got back to Europe around a week ago," said the Hannspree Ten Kate Honda rider. "The shoulder feels good but I've seen the video of Portimao on YouTube and it looks like it will test the injury!
"It seems to be very up and down - a bit like Brands Hatch or Phillip Island - but it also looks fun. I am relaxed and want to finish the season with two strong results this weekend," added the Japanese, who will start the first of Sunday's races ninth in the championship, but just ten points from Ducati's Michel Fabrizio.
Team-mate Carlos Checa starts the final round of his own rookie SBK season fifth in the championship, but still with a slim mathematical chance of rising as high as second. Checa has been off the podium since his debut double victory at Miller Motorsports Park eight rounds ago.
"I hear a lot of good things about the new Portimao circuit so I'm looking forward to riding it myself. It'll be great to be among the first riders there, but I hope the track surface doesn't give us too many problems with grip," said Checa.
"I'm hoping of course to finish the season on a high note and it will be good to prepare for 2009 with a positive finish. It's been a great first season in World Superbike for me, with a new team, new bike, new tyres, new championship."
"There has been a lot to learn and it's been tough, particularly since the wins in America. But we'll use this last race to finish as high as we can in this year's championship and to start making improvements for next season," he added.
"It'll also be good to have Kiyo back after missing the last round because of the surgery on his collarbone," said team manager Ronald ten Kate. "He's very motivated to finish the season well, as is Carlos - Portimao is a new circuit and hopefully a level playing field for everyone."
Kiyonari and Checa will be joined by Jonathan Rea this weekend. The Ulsterman is swapping seats with Kenan Sofuoglu to make his WSBK debut ahead of a full 2009 attack (see separate story).