Fresh from a break of nearly a month, the Fiat Yamaha Team regroups this weekend at the coastal town of Estoril for the Portuguese Grand Prix. Returning to its more traditional end of season slot after moving to May last season, the race marks the start of the final phase of the championship with just the overseas double-header and the Valencian season finale remaining after it. Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo lie first and second in the championship and the Yamaha pair’s rivalry promises a tense climax to this year’s thrilling championship.
Rossi signed off for the holidays in fine fettle after taking his sixth win of the season at the last round, in front of his home fans at Misano. The 30-year-old has an exemplary record at Estoril and is the most successful rider in Grand Prix history at the track, having stood on the podium on all of his nine visits, including five wins. Last year he lost out to his then-rookie team-mate Lorenzo and finished third but the Italian will be looking for a maximum points haul this weekend as he stalks his ninth World Championship title.
With three wins under his belt this season so far, Lorenzo finished second in Misano last time out and will be hoping that a return to the scene of one of his greatest world championship performances will kickstart his championship run-in. The Mallorcan’s explosive entry into MotoGP last year culminated at the third race in Portugal when he took his third consecutive pole and his maiden premier-class win. 16 months on the 22-year-old is older and wiser and he knows that nothing less than a victory will do if he wishes to increase the pressure on his team-mate, who lies 30 points ahead of him in the standings.
Temperatures in early October usually settle around the mid-twenties in the region, although the Estoril circuit is located just seven kilometres from the Atlantic and is notorious for dramatic changes in weather, with spells of warm sunshine often interrupted by wild gusts of cold wind and rain. The layout of the Autodromo Fernanda Pires de Silva is similarly contrasting, featuring one of the longest main straights in MotoGP and one of the slowest corners. Several other twisty sections make for the lowest average speed in the championship but the 200km/h kink at turn five and the final Parabolica corner are two of the toughest tests of any rider’s skill and bravery.
Valentino Rossi Speaks… "Ready to return to work"
"It was great to go away for the break after winning in Misano and with a good championship lead and I have enjoyed having three weeks off, but now I am ready to return to work. We’re in the final stage of the championship and we have a strong position but, as we’ve seen throughout this season, anything can happen and we know that the championship is far from over yet. The next three races are all good tracks for us and my team and I will aim to get as many points as possible each time and then we will see where we are in Valencia! Last year we struggled a little in Estoril but it’s been a great track for me in the past, especially with Yamaha, and it’s a place that usually produces good, close racing so I hope that’s the case again this year. I also hope to see Casey back in good shape and recovered because the championship misses him."
Jorge Lorenzo Speaks.. "One of the best moments of my life"
"I am really excited to be coming back to race, a month is too long after the summer! It’s been strange to have such a long break but I’ve tried to use the time to prepare for the final races; I spent a week in Mallorca, training with my father and resting with my family and I enjoyed myself a lot. Now we go to Estoril, where I had one of the best moments of my life. In the past I was never strong there but last year I did an unbelievable race. This year it’s a different situation; a different time of year, everyone has the same tyres and we are in the closing stages of the championship. My aim is to have a good weekend in order to keep the championship going. I am also happy that we will see Casey back this weekend because he brings another challenge for all of us."
Davide Brivio Speaks… "The most important period of the championship"
"Now we’re going into the final four races and this is the most important period of the championship, where we can achieve all that we’ve worked for. In Misano we showed our strong motivation to win once again and we’re looking forward to the next chapter. We expect another big battle with Jorge and also with Stoner and Pedrosa. Estoril was difficult for us last year but this year everyone is on the same tyres and we know that we’re in great shape so we’re looking forward to a good weekend."
Daniele Romagnoli Speaks…. "Can’t wait to be back on track"
"We’ve had a very long break in the season which is really unusual for us, but now we can’t wait to be back on the track again to continue our challenge. Last year Estoril was Jorge’s first win in MotoGP, which was unforgettable for everyone. It wasn’t his best track but we were very competitive and we believe that we will be able to be so again this time, keeping this championship as exciting as possible for us and all MotoGP fans."