During a wet Jerez Grand Prix earlier this month, Valentino Rossi recorded his best performance on the Ducati Team GP12, finishing fifth at a crash-filled event.But the Italian’s continuous struggles may possibly slow a bit at Estoril this weekend for Round 3 of the 2011 MotoGP Championship.Why? Rossi has some luck in Portugal; VR46 has finished on the podium 10 times since 2000, which includes five wins (three with Honda, two with Yamaha).The Estoril Circuit has proven to be difficult in the past for Ducati MotoGP prototypes, though, mostly due to its contrasting design. Estoril has the lowest average speed of all 18 races in the 2011 MotoGP Championship, but also has one of the longest straightaways and fastest turns (5).And if that’s not enough to put Rossi through another test as he struggles with the Ducati, the circuit is close to the Atlantic coast, which causes unstable weather conditions along the 2.599-mile MotoGP circuit.One thing Rossi had on his side was the postponement of the Japanese Grand Prix, which gave the 31-year old additional time to strengthen his recovering shoulder, which he injured during a motocross training accident last season.
Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team MotGP GP11) says: “With the postponement of the Japanese GP, we’ve had three weekends without a race, so I was able to ‘unplug’ for a while following the GP12 test at Jerez, although I continued training to help my physical recovery.“Now we go to Estoril, a track I quite like, where we’ll continue working on the GP11’s setup, particularly during the test on Monday. The conditions are often unpredictable at Estoril because the area is very windy and close to the ocean, making for variable weather, especially in the spring.“Anyway, although we saw at Jerez that we’re already competitive in the wet, we’re hoping for sun in Portugal so that we can make the most of our time on the track. We still have to understand the bike better, and to work on the setup with the goal of being faster in the dry in time for the most intense phase of the season, when we’ll have six races in eight weeks starting in June.”As for Rossi’s teammate Nicky Hayden, the American has a best finish of fourth at Estoril back in 2007 while competing on the Repsol Honda.Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team MotoGP GP11) says: “On to Portugal! We’ve had three weeks off, which seems like a long time, so I’m looking forward to getting back with the team. Estoril has some pretty tight, narrow places, but I’d say my favorite part is the fast kink on the back straightaway.“Actually, we were just there in the fall, 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 time in as well. Now the season really gets rolling as we head into summer. 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.”Vittoriano Guareschi (Ducati MotoGP Team Manager) says: “We’re back on the track after a long break, and with the post-race test, it will be a long weekend. For now, the weather forecast isn’t good, but we’ll see, because the conditions there change quickly. We hope for at least fair conditions throughout the weekend.“We got a podium with Nicky at our last race, and we hope the result will help him find the feeling that he had last year when he had many nice races, including here at Estoril when he led for a while before a couple of small mistakes held him to fifth. Vale (Rossi) was fast and very competitive in Spain, especially considering that he hadn’t ever ridden the GP11 in the wet. Now the goal is to enable our riders to ride at a similar level in the dry.”The Ducati team of Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden will begin the Portuguese Grand Prix this Friday with the first of three practices; the race is slated for 1 p.m. local time Sunday.