After an extended break due to the postponement of the Motegi GP, the MotoGP paddock heads to the unpredictable surroundings of Estoril for Round 3 of the championship. And the man at the top of the championship, Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo will be hoping to continue his dominance at the circuit, which has seen him win the past 3 races at the Portuguese circuit from pole position.
Speaking before the weekend, Lorenzo said “This week we will be in Portugal, a country where I’ve had nice moments! In Estoril I got my first victory in the MotoGP class in 2008 which I repeated over the last two seasons. The track has turned into a talisman for me and it is the place where the astronaut always comes back. We have been training for a month, and I hope that this makes us fit for a good race.”
He continued “We are in front of the standings, but it is very early and it is just the beginning. This week will also be important since we are testing on Monday and we will certainly be able to check a lot of things for the future set-up”
Jorge’s team-mate Ben Spies arrives in Estoril after a 4 week break in Texas hoping to improve his current championship standing of 12th. The Texan said, “Although I've enjoyed the opportunity to head home and get some chill out time in Texas this break has been way to long for me. The team worked really hard over the weekend in Jerez and by race day had delivered a competitive set up that meant we could fight for the podium. Unfortunately it wasn't to be. 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.”
For the Ducati squad, they’re break was slightly shorter, due to Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden testing next year’s GP12 machine in Jerez after the last round. Valentino Rossi will arrive in Portugal hoping to make ammends for his mistake in the opening laps of the last race, which saw him attempt, and fail, to overtake rival Casey Stoner and ended up taking him out. Rossi also has good stats when it comes to Estoril. In his past 11 starts Rossi he has claimed 5 wins and 5 podium finishes.
Speaking before the weekend, he said, “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.”
Talking more about the race, Rossi continued, “The conditions are often unpredictable at Estoril because the area is very windy and close to the ocean, making for variable weather. Anyway, although we saw at Jerez that we're already competitive in the wet, we're hoping for sun 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.”
Hayden comes to Estoril with a 4th place finish his best result around the track with the slowest average speed on the calender. “On to Portugal!” said Hayden. “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.”
He finished, “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.”
For Monster Yamaha Tech3 rookie Cal Crutchlow, his steep learning curve with ramp up another notch as the Brit has never raced around the Estoril circuit. After a strong and consistent start to the season, Crutchlow currently sits in 9th in the championship. Despite recently undergoing surgery on his right arm, Crutchlow is confident he’ll be 100% fit for Sunday’s race.
“I am looking forward to Portugal.” said Cal. “This is a new circuit for me and it will be difficult once again as the others know this track already and have a lot more experience on it than me. I hope I can learn this circuit as fast as Jerez where I was quickly up to speed and I qualified inside the top ten. My arm is getting better and better after the surgery that was done to get rid of the numbness I felt during Qatar and Jerez. The stitches are out already, but I haven’t tried to ride a bike yet, so I’ll understand more on Friday when practice starts.”
Team mate Colin Edwards has finished in the top 10 in 8 of his 9 races in Estoril, and was even challenging for the win last year before a technical hitch ended his race on the last lap. “A few years ago I was in the group fighting for the win and 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 works good 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.”