Max Neukirchner will start this weekend's fifth round of the 2009 World Superbike Championship, at Monza, inspired by memories of his debut victory one year ago.
Having seen his first win slip away when he was hit by Carlos Checa at the final turn of the Valencia round, fracturing Neukirchner's collarbone in the process, Max rebounded to claim his first victory in thrilling style just two rounds later in Italy.
Neukirchner edged out Noriyuki Haga by just 0.058sec at the line to become the first German rider in history to claim a WSBK victory, which he followed up with second position - a mere 0.009sec from Haga - in race two.
“Last year was a wonderful occasion for me and I will never forget my first win in World Superbikes,” said Neukirchner. “They always say that the first win is the hardest and really I should have got it in Valencia when I was on the way to victory when I go knocked off within sight of the chequered flag.”
The Alstare Brux Suzuki rider began this season in style with a close second in race one at Phillip Island, but has only been on the podium once since - something the raw power of his GSX-R1000 might help to change on Sunday.
“It's important to have a fast bike at Monza and know how to play the slipstreaming game. It's easy to be at the front of the pack and lose out on the draft and get beaten to the flag, so it's something you have to watch out for,” he warned.
“I like fast tracks and I think our bike will be well-suited to Monza. For sure, my intention is to finish on the podium in both races and if I can repeat my win of last year, I would be very happy,” added Max, who won again at Misano later in the 2008 season.
Team mate Yukio Kagayama had a mixed day last year, taking fourth in race one and a DNF in race two. The Japanese is presently just twelfth in the championship, compared with fifth for Neukirchner, with his only podium appearance a third in race one in Australia.
“My season has been a bit up and down and this does not make me so happy so far,” confessed Kagayama. “I have a good bike and know my results should be a lot better. Sometimes the bike is not so easy because some little changes can produce big effects - and not always in the right direction.
“But my job is to race, so I and the team have to find ways of making the bike work better so that I can challenge the podium again. This is what I want, and I will do my best to try and achieve it.”