Estoril, Portugal, round three of the 2011 MotoGP World Championship. An unpredictable circuit given its proximity to the ocean, where strong winds can whip in rain and cold. Or, just as easily deliver classic Portugal sun.
The circuit itself is a study in contrasts; the lowest average lap speed, yet owning one of the longest straightaways among the series’ circuits.
American Nicky Hayden, aboard the Ducati, comes into Portugal fresh off a podium finish in Jerez. Hayden’s best finish at Estoril was fourth in 2007 while aboard the Honda.
Nicky Hayden (Ducati MotoGP) says: “The Estoril circuit has some pretty tight, narrow places, but I’d say my favorite part is the fast kink on the back straightaway. We raced there recently in October but the weekend was completely wet until the race.
“Hopefully it’s a little bit different this year because it would be nice to get some dry running time in as well. I know the team’s been working hard and I’m also looking forward to the test that we have on Monday after the race. I can’t wait to get back to the track and back on the bike. Hopefully we can go and get a good result.”
Last year’s rookie, Ben Spies, comes into Estoril with unusual precedent. Last year, having qualified fifth, Spies was tossed from his Tech3 Yamaha on the sighting lap and scored a DNS. The Texan is coming off a crash in Jerez three weeks ago while in podium position. This will be his second appearance at the circuit, and the first time on the full factory Yamaha.
Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing MotoGP) says: “I really enjoyed the first practice sessions here last year and was frustrated to have not made the race, I can’t wait to get started on Friday morning and see what we can do.”
Rounding out the three Americans currently competing in the premiere class, Texan Colin Edwards (Tech3 Yamaha) is intent on making up for his bad luck in Jerez, when a mechanical robbed him of his first podium finish since 2009. Over the course of his nine-year career in MotoGP, Edwards has earned two fourth-place finishes at Estoril.
Colin Edwards (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha MotoGP) says: : ”I like the Estoril track. I always seem to do pretty well there and it will be good to get back on the bike after a long break. The track seems to suit my riding style and with the extra performance we’ve got with the 2011 Yamaha YZR-M1, I’m confident we can have a strong weekend. The Yamaha has always worked well in Estoril and had a good balance there, so there is no reason why I can’t go there and think about challenging for at least a top six.”
The three Americans are hungry for victory (and if not victory, podiums). Wouldn’t it be awesome if this threesome were to all be sitting atop the podium come Sunday afternoon?
Given the desire and the talent of these three men, along with the circumstances, and the unpredictability of racing, it’s not out of the question.