Noriyuki Haga will be looking to keep his World Superbike Championship lead over one round (50 points) this weekend, during Ducati's home event at Misano.
The Japanese lost 35 points to nearest rival Ben Spies after the rookie took a double victory in front of his home fans last time out at Miller Motorsports Park. Haga meanwhile suffered his worst weekend of the season so far, with an eighth and ninth place finish.
The #41 hopes for a far better performance on his return to Europe, but has a relatively poor record at the Italian circuit, having claimed just three podiums from 18 starts and no victories. If Haga claims a podium this weekend, it will be the 100th of his WSBK career.
“The Misano track is very small and tricky with high-speed corners that require aggressive braking. I prefer the new layout but it remains nonetheless a difficult track for me, I don't really know why,” Haga admitted. “It's always so hot there too, so the tyre choice really comes into play.
“Anyway, it will be good to be back in front of the Italian crowds, Misano has been the 'home' race for Ducati in the last years so I'm sure it'll be crowded with Ducatisti! After a crash and the less than perfect results at the last round of Salt Lake, I plan to be back on form and fighting to win at Misano.”
With half of the 2009 Superbike races now completed, Haga has scored 38 more points than last year's champion Troy Bayliss had claimed at the same point in the season.
Haga also has a greater points advantage than Bayliss, who sat 39 points in front of Carlos Checa after round seven.
Triple world champion Bayliss, who impressed in a recent V8 Supercar test, will be visiting Misano in his role as Ducati ambassador, participating in autograph sessions and assisting with prize-giving duties.