Valentino Rossi hopes the support of his “home crowd” will put him firmly at the top of the MotoGP standings after a trying last race that saw Max Biaggi take top honours.

Valentino Rossi hopes the support of his “home crowd” will put him firmly at the top of the MotoGP standings after a trying last race that saw Max Biaggi take top honours.

However, Max Biaggi’s victory at the Sachsenring last weekend has brought him to within one point of reigning world champion Rossi. Riding the Honda RCV that steered Rossi to victory last year, Biaggi will have a chance to advance his championship efforts at a circuit where he was handed a controversial win last year. Biaggi scored maximum points at the Donington Park circuit in 2003 after Rossi was penalised for overtaking under a yellow flag.

Rossi recently proclaimed Sete Gibernau as his toughest rival for the 2004 world championship, but believes that Biaggi has the quicker bike.

"For me, Sete is a better rider than Biaggi," the Doctor said when asked about his championship rivals. "(But), from the track, the bike of Biaggi is faster than the bike of Sete.

"My feeling is that when I fight with Sete the difference between (our) engines is less and Sete rides a little bit well but, with Biaggi... Biaggi rides a little bit more slow, but the engine is a little bit faster – it's difficult (to chose between the two).

With Sete our relationship is better than with Biaggi, on the track we always have a great battle," Rossi added about Gibernau, who has yet to win a MotoGP race at Donington. He scored his first podium finish there last year when he finished second.

Honda rider Alex Barros showed signs of brilliance when he finished second last week and anything is possible with only seven races remaining in the season and the fight for the championship as strong as ever.

Hot riders Carlos Checa, Marco Melandri and Norick Abe crashed out of the last race from top positions and will be fighting to make their marks at the front again.

Current world Superbike champion Neil Hodgson has fond memories of the Donington curcuit where he secured his best ever grand prix result in 1995. Hodgson this weekend has yet another chance to make up some points in his quest for top MotoGP glory.