Having been forced to deny rumours that its presence on the World Superbike grid is in doubt, Sterilgarda Ducati hopes to let its results do the talking in this weekend's Imola round.

Heading into the final three events of the season, lone rider Shane Byrne sits joint ninth in the championship with Jakub Smrz, after a best finish of second in drying conditions at Misano.

But seven of the eight riders in front of Byrne in the championship ride for factory or factory-favoured teams - Yamaha WSB, Ducati Xerox, Hannspree Ten Kate Honda and Aprilia - the exception being Stiggy Honda's Leon Haslam, in sixth.

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Honda insists that Stiggy is no less 'factory-backed' than Ten Kate - "Both teams receive support from Honda Europe, but both are privately owned, develop their respective bikes themselves and fund their racing programmes through financial support from other activities" - although it is hard to believe that both teams receive equal support from Honda Europe.

Either way, Byrne and Sterilgarda will start the weekend 25 points behind Tom Sykes (Yamaha WSB) and 37 points behind Carlos Checa (Ten Kate).

"My expectations for this race are high because Shakey has demonstrated his skills on the track and the team did a great job in the July test," explained Sterilgarda team manager Marco Borciani.

"We'll start where we left off set-up wise, however the weather will be completely different as it's not going to be as hot as a couple of months ago.

"The track seems to adapt well both to the bike's features and to the rider's skills and so I'm confident we can do well. We basically hope to score a result which will allow us to keep our ninth place in the riders' standings".