With three victories from the first four races, Ducati's double world champion Troy Bayliss
sits on top of the 2008 standings by 27 points over Alstare Suzuki's Fonsi Nieto
- but it's been far from business as usual for the Australian.
Bayliss has shrugged off both a pre-season collarbone fracture and then a Phillip Island practice arm injury to take the early title lead with the new 1098 F08 and was forced to miss the recent Valencia test to allow his body to heal.
With Ducati Xerox team-mate Michel Fabrizio
and Sterilgarda Go Eleven star Max Biaggi
also absent from the test due to Phillip Island injuries, the factory four-cylinders (with the exception of Yamaha) could start the weekend with a set-up advantage over the Italian machinery.
Although his fractured wrist is far from fully fit after his huge Phillip Island accident, Biaggi has confirmed that he will ride this weekend.
Biaggi's team-mate Ruben Xaus
- currently third in the championship - spent just one day at the test, but set a highly impressive pace on both qualifying and race tyres. Xaus will be aiming for a repeat of his '07 home win on Sunday, but claimed the straight line speed of the four-cylinders might make them tough to pass.
New GSX-R rider Nieto can also count on home support as he seeks to erase his double DNF disappointment of one year ago, while Troy Corser
is currently the lead Yamaha rider with fourth in championship standings.
Corser would be a lot closer to the top had it not been for his Phillip Island fall, but the double world champion still has over twice the points haul of Yamaha Italia team-mate and 2007 title runner-up Noriyuki Haga. 'Nitro Nori' is only ninth in the standings, 66 points from Bayliss, and desperately needs to get his season back on track this weekend.
Former MotoGP star Carlos Checa
will compete in front of his home fans for the first time as WSBK rider this weekend. Having taken his first WSBK podium with second place in race two at Phillip Island, the Hannspree Ten Kate Honda star is gathering momentum, while the Valencia test allowed vital development work with the new Fireblade.
With Checa currently fifth in the standings, 43 points from Bayliss, the second-highest Honda is the privateer Paul Bird Motorsport entry of Gregorio Lavilla, in tenth position. The former BSB champion has produced consistent points finishers on his world championship return, but will hope to edge nearer to the front at his home event.