Marco Melandri may be Italian, but he hasn't raced at the world-famous Monza circuit since a one-off outing in 1996.

Yamaha's race-winning World Superbike rookie is therefore especially excited about this weekend's home event, which is also the fastest on the WSBK calendar.

The former MotoGP star starts round four holding third in the championship, just four points behind Aprilia's reigning world champion Max Biaggi, but 47 points from Althea Ducati's Carlos Checa.

"I'm not really familiar with Monza, it's a new track to me and I'm really curious to try it out on my R1 and see how it goes," said Melandri.

"I rode the track once in 1996 but I can't even remember it now! It's a very fast flowing track with some tight corners and I'm really looking forward to riding it this weekend.

"The team have been working hard on the data we picked up in Assen and let's hope that we've found an improved set up. I'm sure I can be as competitive as anyone and can be back on the podium again this weekend."

Having little prior knowledge of the circuit, Melandri will be relying on his team to give him a suitable set up, which he can then refine.

"Monza is the fastest track on the calendar where the set up of the bike is very important and we intend competing at the front of the bunch," said Melandri's crew chief Silvano Galbusera.

"We are planning on using the soft tyres. Ducati normally has an advantage here as a 2 cylinder engine character in general adapts better to soft tyres, but with our crossplane crankshaft engine we also have a strong weapon for that.

"Marco doesn't know the track, even if I think he rode here many years ago with a 125cc. We will make the most of the first free practice session to get acquainted with the circuit and test the set up of the bike and the tyre resistance.

"Monza requires a stable bike to take the fast curves and an agile bike that reacts well to the change of direction the track frequently offers as well, particularly in the first corner, the "Roggia" and "Ascari", three very important areas."

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