Max Neukirchner leads the Alstare Suzuki challenge into this weekend's World Superbike season finale at the brand new Portimao circuit, where the German star is aiming to try and snatch third place from Troy Corser in the final 2008 championship standings.
Neukirchner, who won his first two WSBK races this season, heads into the much-anticipated Portuguese event 18 points behind the Yamaha Motor Italia rider - whose team-mate Noriyuki Haga is a further nine points clear in second position.
"I know nothing about the track apart from seeing photos of it, so the first thing I have to do is learn the circuit," said Max. "Normally I am quite good at learning circuits and if the weather is okay I am sure we can get a lot of work done in practice. At the moment, I am in fourth place in the championship, but Corser is only 18 points ahead, so I want to put pressure on him and see if I can take third."
Neukirchner will remain an Alstare rider next season, but team-mate Fonsi Nieto is yet to announce his plans. Nieto, who also took his first WSBK win in round one at Qatar, arrives at round 14 seventh in the championship, but just a single point behind Max Biaggi.
Troy Bayliss has already secured the 2008 title and the factory Ducati team tested at Portimao last week - to the surprise of Nieto.
"For me, like many riders, this will be a new experience and we will have to start off learning the track before we get down to finding the right bike set-up," said the Spaniard. "I thought that we would all be seeing the circuit for the first time, so I am a bit surprised that some of our rivals have tested there already. That will give them a big advantage because they will already have a good idea of bike set-up, whereas we will be starting from scratch. My season has been a bit up and down so my intention is to finish it with a couple of good results."
Yukio Kagayama is expected to remain at Alstare next year, but arrives at the final round of an injury-interrupted season without a podium to his credit.
"It is a new track for me and a lot to learn in a short space of time, but this is my job and I must do it as best I can," said the Japanese. "It is a pity that some of our rivals have tested there recently because they will have collected a lot of good information and can just fine-tune the bike in practice. But this is racing and I and my team must work hard in practice and qualifying and be as competitive as possible. I will fight as hard as I can, as usual, and hope for good results."