The big story at the start of the 2007 World Superbike season was the debut of former MotoGP star Max Biaggi who, after a season on the sidelines, was returning to world championship racing with Alstare Suzuki Corona Extra.

A thorough winter test schedule saw Biaggi well prepared for the Qatar season opener, where he confirmed his talent by qualifying second on the grid behind Troy Corser in his first ever Superpole appearance, but even better was to follow.

A cautious Biaggi had been careful to avoid setting targets prior to the start of the season and certainly didn't claim he'd win his first ever race - but that's just what he did! Max snatched a close victory over James Toseland, while Ducati's Lorenzo Lanzi was best of the rest twelve seconds further back.

But in a sign of things to come, Ten Kate Honda star Toseland learned quickly from his first race defeat and turned the tables on Biaggi by 0.7secs in the second and final race, when Corser completed the podium on his R1 debut.

Biaggi and Toseland thus left Losail on top of the championship standings, with defending title holder Troy Bayliss just seventh after a difficult start to the season on the aging 999.

It was to be a rough season for double world champion Bayliss, but a notable highlight came next time out at Phillip Island, when the Australian superstar took a home pole position, then clinched his first victory of 2007 after cleverly shaking off Toseland in the opening race.

But James again learnt his lesson for the second outing, when he and Bayliss put on a thrilling display for the 'Island fans - which ended with the Englishman taking a brilliant victory by just 0.27secs.

Former world champion Toseland, sacked by Ducati at the end of 2005, had rebuilt his reputation by finishing second to Bayliss in 2006, his first year with Ten Kate Honda, and was riding better than ever in 2007.

When main rival Bayliss fell heavily in race one at Donington Park, round three, badly injuring his groin and forcing the amputation of a finger in the process, Toseland's title capacity was left in no doubt - despite being robbed of a potential double victory when his CBR1000RR suffered technical problems while holding a clear lead in race two. It would be Toseland's only non-score of the season.

Although unable to match Toseland's relentless points haul, Biaggi had followed up his dream Qatar debut with one podium at each of the next four rounds, keeping him in second position until his first home round as a WSBK rider, held at Monza in Italy.

It was an emotional homecoming for Biaggi, although on paper he faced his biggest challenge yet - Monza being the first circuit Biaggi hadn't previously raced at in MotoGP. Third and fifth for Max was a creditable performance on a day when all - including Toseland - were blown away by Noriyuki Haga.

Nitro Nori suffered a quiet start to the season, and was initially in the shadow of new team-mate Corser, but took his first podium of the year at Phillip Island race two, then his first win when Toseland retired at Donington Park. However, Monza was a breakthrough weekend for the popular Japanese, who dominated both races to snatch second in the points from Biaggi, while the ever-present Toseland took 4-2 finishes.

With seven rounds to go, the championship standings read; Toseland, Haga (-35), Biaggi (-38) and Bayliss (-65) - the same order as the eventual final world championship classification, but there was plenty of drama still to come.

Despite his early season injury, and lack of top speed relative to the four-cylinders, Bayliss typically refused to admit defeat and provided hope of a miracle comeback with a three-race mid-season win streak, which began in the pouring rain of Silverstone.

Toseland fell during the downpour, remounting to secure eight precious points before race two was cancelled due to the appalling weather. Bayliss admitted it was the right decision, but also that the potential loss of 25 points was the last thing he needed.

Nevertheless, Troy stormed to his only double victory of the year at the 'new' Misano next time out, while Toseland paid the price for a lack of testing at the reversed circuit - limiting him to a subdued fourth and sixth. It could have been much worse had Biaggi not taken out Haga in race one, an incident that would prove costly at the end of the season...

Bayliss had left Misano second in the points and just 21 from Toseland, but the Briton responded by emerging from his three race 'slump' with a podium, and victory return, next time out in the Czech Republic. Brno ace Biaggi may have pipped Toseland in the second race, when the Italian took an overdue second win of the year, but Bayliss suffered a nightmare weekend - being taken out while tenth in race one then managing just sixth in race two.

That demoted Troy back behind Biaggi and Haga in the championship standings and the great Australian's hopes of securing a third world title in 2007 where effectively extinguished next time out at Brands Hatch...