The 2009 World Superbike Championship will be back in action after the summer break with the eleventh round at Germany's Nurburgring circuit this weekend.
The German round is the first of four events - the others being Imola, Magny-Cours and Portimao - which will lead to either Noriyuki Haga
(Ducati Xerox), Ben Spies (Yamaha World Superbike) or Michel Fabrizio
(Ducati Xerox) being crowned world champion for the first time.
The memories of Haga's double victory twelve months whilst riding with a recently broken collarbone could be just what the Ducati rider needs to galvanise him into action, as he arrives in Germany with a slender seven point lead and still recovering from multiple injuries he suffered two races ago at Donington.
The Japanese rider will have to be on top form to hold off superstar rookie Spies, who is currently on the crest of a wave with three wins in the last four races for Yamaha - and poised to take the title lead.
But Haga's Ducati Xerox team-mate Michel Fabrizio
could play a key role in proceedings.
The young Italian still has an slim title chance, sitting 53 points behind Haga and 46 behind the Texan (with 200 points still up for grabs), and unwittingly took Spies out of the action at Brno, allowing Haga to keep the championship lead.
Fabrizio is unlikely to make the same mistake, but may soon be called upon by Ducati to assist Haga with more careful race tactics.
After a breakthrough victory in Brno, Max Biaggi
and Aprilia could also be key players this weekend. The win helped boost morale in the Italian team and even though it came at a circuit where the RSV4 had already been tested, the four-cylinder machine from the Noale factory is clearly making progress towards the top in WSBK.
The Hannspree Ten Kate Honda team have had an up and down season so far but at least they have seen the rise of Jonathan Rea, the only winner for the Japanese manufacturer this year and surely one of the men to watch in WSBK in the future.
Rea is a true fighter and the German track, which he is familiar with after racing in Supersport, is another chance for him to shine. Carlos Checa
has shown signs of a renaissance in recent races, while over in the Stiggy Racing Honda camp Leon Haslam aims to put in another solid performance to become top Honda man ahead of Rea.