After an almost four-week break the 2011 MotoGP World Championship resumes on Friday, when the opening practice sessions for the bwin Grande Prémio de Portugal get underway, and the pre-GP press conference on Thursday set the scene for Round 3 of the campaign.
Leading the early standings after just two rounds – including a victory last time out at Jerez – and with a formidable premier class record at the Estoril circuit, Yamaha Factory Racing rider Jorge Lorenzo was first to speak as he got the press conference underway.
“It’s a track I love. I’ve won three times here and took my first MotoGP win here too,” said Lorenzo. “But this year is different, in theory it’s a tough year for us. We are leading the Championship because we have had two fabulous races, but now the circumstances are different and it’s a different year”.
Looking ahead to the official Test on Monday, Lorenzo added: “I think the bike needs to improve quite a lot and especially this year, but we don’t have a bad bike, we can fight for the podium and I think this is what we need to fight for the Championship. I would like to fight for the same wins as last year, but maybe it’s going to be hard so our target is to be as close as we can to first position”.
Dani Pedrosa used the extended interval which followed Jerez to undergo surgery and remove the metal screws in his collarbone. The Repsol Honda rider has had admirable results in the two opening rounds (third and second) and hopes that with an improved physical comfort he can make further strides.
“The surgery was successful, and now we must see how much I can improve here,” said Pedrosa, who has finished on the podium three times in the premier class at Estoril. “I’ve had a lot of rehabilitation, which included ten days of doing nothing. It’s been tricky, because I had to exercise to be able to be here, but I couldn’t push too hard”.
He added: “It’s still a bit sore and stiff, but I hope I can test it here, get a good feeling and see if I can improve”.
All eyes were on Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi following their coming together at Jerez, and both appeared fully focused on this weekend’s race.
Repsol Honda rider Stoner said: “I’ve done lots of training and work and it’s been a long break, which has been really nice. It’s quite early to have that in the season but very enjoyable. It also gives a lot of motivation for the rest of the season”.
The Australian is more than eager to recuperate the points lost in Spain in the last round, and said of his record at Estoril: “I’ve always been fast here, the last few years haven’t gone the best, but in general we’ve been quite competitive here and this year with the Honda it should be easier. All we need to do now is accumulate points and get our Championship on track”.
Ducati Team rider Rossi has had huge success at the track during his career, finishing on the podium ten times from 11 premier class races with five victories included.
“In the past I’ve had some good races and a lot of points, it’s a difficult track but I love it,” said the Italian. “We have worked a lot (on the bike) and have tried to improve some areas of it, but I think for the weekend the bike will remain more or less the same except for something on the electronics to improve the character of the engine. The Test on Monday will be very important”.
Making his return from a broken left femur is Rizla Suzuki’s Álvaro Bautista who will test his fitness in Friday’s first practice session, after which he will take a decision on whether he will continue this weekend.
“The crash in Qatar was horrible and it’s been very hard, every day working 24 hours on the injury to improve and now I am here. Tomorrow I’ll try with the bike. At the moment I’m very confident”, said the Spaniard. “I rode a supermotard yesterday and didn’t feel too much pain, but a MotoGP bike is very different and we’ll see what happens”.
“After first free practice I will make a decision if I continue. It’s very important, it’s not just the injury but I also have to rediscover the feeling with the bike”, he concluded.
Earlier in the day 125 rider Miguel Oliveira, who is preparing for his home GP, Moto2’s Julián Simón and MotoGP rookie Karel Abraham met the Mayor of Cascais, Carlos Carreiras, ahead of a boat trip as part of the official GP pre-event.