The Ducati Marlboro Team is ready to start the final sprint towards 2008 MotoGP World Championship glory, starting off with this weekend's classic appointment at Brno, in the Czech Republic, before a run of six crucial races across Europe, America, Asia and Australia.
Casey Stoner, who found himself down in fourth place overall, 50 points behind series leader Valentino Rossi after the Catalunya GP just over two months ago, has put together an incredible run of form to haul himself back into contention. Three wins and a second place from four races make him the form rider in the championship, lifting him to second in the standings, 25 points adrift of the Italian.
The World Champion returns from a three-week holiday in his native Australia aiming to reproduce that kind of form at the Czech circuit, which has been completely resurfaced for this year's race. Stoner took a clean sweep of pole, fastest lap and victory at Brno in 2007, adding to a 250cc podium there in 2005.
Marco Melandri is also hopeful of a good result after spending the break with his family, who helped him to enjoy his 26th birthday celebrations on 7th August. The Italian has celebrated victory at Brno on three occasions in the smaller classes, including back-to-back 125cc wins in 1998 and 1999 followed by 250cc victory in 2002. Over the past two rounds the man from Ravenna has shown good progress during practice, although bad luck has prevented him from turning that into race results.
LIVIO SUPPO, MotoGP Project Director
"Brno has always been a track where our bike has been very much at home. Over the past two seasons, thanks also to the optimum performance of Bridgestone tyres, we have taken victory - in 2006 with Loris and last year with Casey. The track has been resurfaced and that creates something of an unknown for all of us.
We just hope that grip is as good as it was last year and that the weather is stable over the three days so that we can prepare properly for the race. We head to Brno with confidence but also aware that the level of the championship is ever higher and it will be another difficult weekend."
CASEY STONER (Ducati Marlboro Team) 2nd in the championship on 187 points (-25)
"Brno is a nice track but it's demanding too - a bit like Mugello and Phillip Island, two of my favourites. In 250 I was on the podium and last year we won, so with the bike performing as it has been lately we should be able to fight for a good result again. We've still got quite a few points to make up in the championship, which won't be easy, but the whole team are working so hard and we'll give it our best shot. After that, whatever will be, will be. After the race at Laguna Seca I went back to Australia and spent a bit of time with my wife and family away from the track. I got some rest in but I also trained hard and now I can't wait to get back on the bike."
MARCO MELANDRI (Ducati Marlboro Team) 17th in the championship on 32 points (-180)
"I like Brno and I've won there in 125 and in 250. Whilst I've not managed a podium in MotoGP I have always gone well in testing. This year they've re-laid the track so that will be a new factor for everybody. We'll see. I hope we can continue to work as well as we did in Germany and America, but this time finish it off with a result in the race. The track is definitely suited to our bike so expectations are high. The holiday went well - I spent a few days in Montecarlo and then went back to Romagna because I hadn't seen my family for a long time. I spent my birthday with them and it was a nice way to kick back and relax."