The final stretch of the 2010 MotoGP Championship begins this weekend at Estoril for the bwin Grande Premio de Portugal, the first of two back-to-back races.
The Spaniard who clinched the 2010 MotoGP title at Sepang two rounds ago, Jorge Lorenzo, will arrive at Estoril with much confidence. But this self-assurance does not only derive from his premier MotoGP title, but also because the Fiat Yamaha M1 rider has won the last two outings at Estoril.
During both of those races (2008 and 2009), Lorenzo took victory from the pole. If Lorenzo wins Sunday’s MotoGP race in Portugal, it’ll be his eight of the season, and add another pole to his championship-winning season; going into Round 17 of 18, Lorenzo has been on the pole 14 out of 16 races.
Jorge Lorenzo says: “We now have the last two races in a row, and they are two very special races. The first one is Estoril, where I’ve had some of my best moments in MotoGP in the last two seasons. I had never won there before in 125 or 250, but since 2008 I have had two victories.”
“It’s the only one place where I’ve won twice in this category! I like the Estoril track and I always seem to feel so good there. Also it always seems a bit like another Spanish GP. Many people from home are coming and I am looking forward to feeling their support, because it’s the first time I’ve ridden so close to home since becoming World Champion. I am still on a high and I would try to win again, like last year when the astronaut arrived!”
Lorenzo will arrive at Estoril without much stress and 333 points, but the same can’t be said for the next four riders. The following will be competing vying for the runner-up position: Dani Pedrosa, Casey Stoner, Valentino Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso.
Although Pedrosa missed the previous three rounds at Motegi, Malaysia and Australia after his crash at Motegi, the Repsol Honda RC212V rider holds onto second place with 228 points.
The Spaniard broke his collarbone during the MotoGP Motegi practice crash, and attempted to compete at Australia. But after riding through much pain during practice there, he opted out of the race. Not competing at Australia gave him almost two extra weeks of recovery time.
At Estoril, Pedrosa doesn’t have the luck of Lorenzo, but he has been on the podium there for the last three years.
Stoner stalks Pedrosa by 23 points, and will be looking to give Ducati its first MotoGP win in Portugal. Aboard his Ducati GP10, Stoner absolutely dominated his home race in Australia two weekends ago, and has been on the podium twice at Estoril. He will be looking to either move into second or hold off the man who is only eight points behind, nine-time World Champion Rossi.
This will be hard task for the Australian, considering Rossi has five wins at Estoril. Last year was the first in 10 visits that the Italian finished off the podium in Portugal. But he has built much momentum going into this year’s round; Rossi has been on the podium at the last three rounds, which includes his win at the Malaysia MotoGP.
Valentino Rossi says: “The flyaways were very good for us, three podiums including one win – we were happy with how much we had improved the bike and also the level of my shoulder. Now we return to Europe and I feel very strongly that I want to enjoy these final two races and try to win again.”
“Estoril was not a good track for me last year, we had some problems and I couldn’t make it onto the podium so we will be trying to change that this year. After Phillip Island we hope the weather will be a bit warmer but Estoril can change very quickly so it could be a factor again.”
Eighteen points behind Rossi is the other Repsol Honda rider, Andrea Dovizioso. He had a DNF in Australia due to mechanical failure on his RC212V, but had two second-place finishes in the rounds preceded Austrlia.
Two Americans follow Dovi in the point standings: Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Ben Spies and Ducati Team rider Nicky Hayden, respectively.
After his fifth-place finish at Australia, Spies clinched the MotoGP “Rookie of the Year” award. The Texan, who will take Rossi’s vacancy on the factory Yamaha team next year, has never raced at Estoril.
Hayden, who has a best finish of fourth at Estoril in 2007, just missed the podium in Australia after dueling with his future Ducati teammate Rossi. He’ll be fighting for his second-podium finish of 2010.
The second highest-place satellite-team rider behind Spies is San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Marco Simoncelli. He sits in seventh with 102 points, 50 behind Hayden but only two ahead of the Frenchman in eight, LCR Honda rider Randy de Puniet. Simoncelli has won at Estoril in the former MotoGP 250cc Class, and although de Puniet has yet to taste victory there, he has three podium finishes in the 250cc Class.
Rounding out the top ten are Simoncelli’s teammate, Marco Melandri, and Spies’ teammate, Colin Edwards.
The only rider who won’t be competing this weekend (and for the final round in Valencia) is Pramac Racing Ducati rider Mika Kallio, who’ll be out due to a shoulder injury. World Superbike Carlos Checa will be substituting for Kallio at the final two rounds, Pramac Racing confirmed Monday.
Also, both the Estoril and Valencia rounds will see a return to the three-practice session format. MotoGP had positive results while experimenting with the format at Aragon. Under this arragangement, the MotoGP grid will have four 45-minute sessions (three practices, qualifying) instead of three one-hour sessions.
Riders will complete two 45-minute practice sessions on Friday, then another 45-minute practice session on Saturday before a 45-minute qualifying session.
The Estoril circuit lies a bit over 4 miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean, and usually has dramatic weather changes. Out of all 18 circuits on the MotoGP schedule, Estoril features the lowest-average speed due to slow corners.
2010 Estoril MotoGP TV Schedule:
The Portugal Grand Prix at Estoril will be broadcast on SPEED TV at 9 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 31, and then again at 5 p.m. The MotoGP race will be followed by the Moto2 race at 6 p.m. Sunday.
2010 MotoGP Championship Standings (after 16 of 18 rounds):
|9.||Randy DE PUNIET||Honda||FRA||100|
|18.||Alex DE ANGELIS||Honda||RSM||11|
|19.||Roger Lee HAYDEN||Honda||USA||5|