After claiming pole position in the previous two years at Phillip Island and setting the fastest time in the three-day pre-season test here, Hayden should have the pace to run up front - but can he defeat the likes of new champion Casey Stoner and former five times champion Valentino Rossi?

"It seems like we wait all year to get our crack at Phillip Island and now finally the time is here and we get our chance," said a fired-up Nicky. "I love the place - it's old-school and I can't wait to get on the track on Friday morning. In the past Phillip Island has been pretty kind to me. I've had two pole positions in a row and a few good results and it's just a track I really enjoy riding.

"It's very important to have good edge grip as you spend so much time on the side of the tyres. You also need a bike that will steer well in the long corners and change direction quickly through the fast esses. At this time of year though the place could be called 'Phillip Iceland' instead of Phillip Island, but some good weather would be nice because when it's cold at this track it can be hard to get heat into the right side of the tyre.

"Anyway, we only have to wait a few more days and then we'll be back racing and, as the locals say, let's hope for a 'bloody good weekend!'" joked the Repsol Honda rider.