Adopted by a section of the Italian crowd as one of their own, Casey Stoner is level on points with Rossi in a tightly-packed top three. Like his rival, Stoner also finished off the podium in France, meaning that no rider has stepped onto the rostrum at every race in 2009. A win in Mugello would not only be a huge psychological advantage for the Australian, but would also bring delight to Ducati and their fans at the Italian factory’s home race. Stoner has taken a second place and qualified on pole position in the past two visits to Mugello.Rapidly catching the leading group, Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa is building confidence and fitness with every race. He chased down teammate Andrea Dovizioso for a third consecutive podium at the last round, and has been one of the few riders to give Rossi problems at the scene of this weekend’s race in recent years. He is currently nine points behind leader Lorenzo in the classification.In some respects, fifth-placed Marco Melandri is the surprise package of 2009 so far. Riding an under-developed Kawasaki Ninja ZX-RR for the Hayate Racing team, the Italian took an unexpected podium at Le Mans in the flag-to-flag MotoGP race. However, despite his setbacks in recent years Melandri’s talent has never been in doubt, and the former MotoGP World Championship runner-up will be out to show as much at his home Grand Prix. He is currently level on points with fellow local rider Dovizioso in the standings.The Gran Premio d’Italia Alice is also a home round for Rizla Suzuki’s Loris Capirossi and Pramac Racing rookie Niccolò Canepa, who both have extensive experience of the Mugello track. Capirossi’s laps have come over the course of eighteen race visits in his World Championship career -including a MotoGP victory in 2000- whilst Canepa was a frequent visitor to the circuit last year as Ducati’s official test rider.Only seventeen riders will participate in the first Friday practice session for the Gran Premio d’Italia Alice, as Sete Gibernau will sit out the event after fracturing his collarbone at Le Mans.The race itself takes place on Sunday, May 31st, with practice and qualifying on the two days prior.