WSBK goes back to the USA this weekend when Miller Motorsports Park, near Salt Lake City, Utah, hosts round six of the 2008 world championship.
Double world champion Troy Bayliss
will lead WSBK into this unknown territory having extended his lead by 8 points to 78, equivalent to over three race wins, despite suffering his first DNF of the 2008 campaign last time out at Monza.
With the other challengers still unable to offer a consistent challenge, the 39-year-old Ducati Xerox - who has won five races already this season on his 1200cc 1098 F08 machine - will thus still be on top of the standings after this weekend, as he seeks a third title during his final year of Superbike racing.
Second place in the championship is still in the hands of SBK rookie Carlos Checa
with 116 points. The 35-year-old from Barcelona has made a seamless transition from MotoGP and now that his Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR machine is sorted, Checa has become a force to be reckoned with, even though he is still to record his maiden Superbike win. The closest he came was at Valencia, when he made contact with Max Neukirchner at the final curve.
A man truly on a mission is Japan's Noriyuki Haga. After a difficult start to the year, the 33 year-old from Nagoya has taken two wins and two second places in the last five races on his Yamaha Motor Italia WSB YZF-R1 and is only four points behind Checa. The last round at Monza saw him hit top form and the two-times WSBK runner-up cannot be ruled out of contention as the season heads towards the mid-point.
Revelation of the year Neukirchner is now in fourth place on 111 points. The 25-year-old Alstare Suzuki rider joined the winners elite at Monza with a superb race 1 performance. He became the first German to win a WSBK race, and was within 9/1000ths of a second of taking a double win. Immediately after Monza he signed a contract with the Belgian team to secure his World Superbike future for the next two years.
Spanish rider Fonsi Nieto
was the man to watch in the Suzuki Alstare team at the start of the year as he notched up a win in the opening Losail round, but he is still searching to recapture that early season form and lies in fifth place on 107 points.
1994 AMA national champion, and double WSBK champion Troy Corser
is right behind in sixth, but the 36-year-old Australian is still waiting to record his first win for the Yamaha Motor Italia WSB team in his second year of trying.
The two Sterilgarda Go Eleven riders, on their factory-assisted Ducati 1098 RS 'customer' machines, are next up in the standings, Ruben Xaus
on 90 points and Max Biaggi
on 65. The Spaniard has been able to challenge the frontrunners on occasions and is a former USA Round winner (in 2003), while multiple GP winner Biaggi suffered a second dose of misfortune at Monza when he was taken out by a fellow competitor and ended up with broken bones for the second time this season. His title chances appear to be slipping away.