Leading that charge will be Checa, who has set himself the target of improving his poor starts this weekend following a frustrating outing at the Nurburgring in which he failed to capitalise on his renewed form. However, Honda didn't have the best bike there last year and with Checa currently the only rider in their portfolio gunning for regular victories, the pressure is certainly on him this weekend.
Pressure is something Neukirchner dealt with admirably when the World Superbikes came to his home ground at the Nurburgring, the German taking pole position and following it up with a pair of podiums. Although his race pace was slightly more disappointing, Neukirchner's sheer consistency at the head of the field is keeping him well in contention and as the only rider seemingly able to get the best from the Suzuki recently, he is likely to be well up for a race win challenge this weekend.
The ever spectacular Haga lived up to his reputation in Germany with a hard-fought double victory that belied the fact he had been under the knife just a few days earlier to repair a broken collarbone. Nonetheless, with the Yamaha coming good around the twisting Nurburgring circuit, Haga was in imperious form as he diced tooth-and-nail with Bayliss and Troy Corser for wins three and four of the season. The only rider to get close to Bayliss on overall wins this year, Haga now needs the consistency to sustain a proper title challenge
Corser came remarkably close to his first win of the season in Germany, only for rain to intervene, but the Australian will take heart from the fact that he is now beginning to challenge at the head of the field regularly and after finishing second at Misano in 2007, he will no doubt be looking to go just one better this time around.
Just slipping out of contention now is Fonsi Nieto, whose strong start to the season has started to become a distant memory for the Spaniard. An eighth and ninth place finish in Germany will have done little steady those nerves, while qualifying is now starting to become a major bugbear for him.
On the plus side, he is closer to the fight for second in the championship than he is to those in the lower reaches of the top ten, with that gaggle being led by Ruben Xaus.
The first of the riders who were perhaps expected to be doing slightly better at this stage in the season, Xaus didn't warm to Misano last year, but is quite capable of presenting a more sustained challenge this time. The same could be said for Sterilgarda team-mate Max Biaggi, who has had a frustrating season thus far
Having begun showing glimpses of pace comparable to Bayliss, Michel Fabrizio will be looking for more podiums – and maybe even a win – this weekend on the bike that is, arguably, the best suited to the circuit. You could say that his future depends on it…
Effectively a home round for Ryuichi Kiyonari, who doesn't live too far away from the area, the Japanese rider is desperate for a better showing after decent race pace in recent rounds has been ignored courtesy of lowly starting positions that have left him too much to do come race day.
Elsewhere, countryman Yukio Kagayama is back in action after the fall that ruled him out of the German round, while Gregorio Lavilla will look to keep his points ticking over in a week that has speculated he may be due for a shock return to the British championship sooner rather than later.
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