Almost four weeks after the Jerez round – the extended break being due to the postponement of the Japanese GP until October – the MotoGP World Championship returns to action at Estoril this weekend, where the bwin Grande Prémio de Portugal hosts Round 3 of the 2011 season. This will be the 14th occasion that there has been a Portuguese GP.
There was no shortage of talking points following Round 2 in southern Spain, where defending World Champion Jorge Lorenzo took his first win of 2011 in the wet, and was followed onto the podium by a Dani Pedrosa struggling with his recovering left arm and Nicky Hayden. Casey Stoner’s inability to finish the race after being taken down in an incident involving Valentino Rossi, the latter of whom managed to remount his bike and finish fifth, merely added to what was a highly eventful race at Jerez.
Yamaha Factory Racing rider Lorenzo has a formidable recent record at the Estoril track, having won for the past three consecutive seasons from pole position. The Spaniard has now finished inside the top four for 22 straight races, and leads the early Championship standings by nine points ahead of rival Dani Pedrosa. The Repsol Honda man arrives in Portugal hopeful that surgery immediately after Jerez will have eased the discomfort caused in his left arm, and despite that he secured a 90th GP podium in the last round making him only the tenth rider to reach the milestone in the World Championship’s 63-year history.
Stoner will be eager to put the DNF from Jerez firmly behind him and regain the momentum he has established in the early stages of the season. The Repsol Honda rider has twice stood on the Estoril podium in the premier class but is yet to win there in MotoGP (he has a 250cc victory to his name), and will view such a result as the perfect response. Nicky Hayden is the highest placed Ducati rider in the standings after two rounds, with factory team-mate Rossi close behind. The Italian has only once finished off the podium at the circuit in the premier class, and counts five victories amongst his haul of rostrum results there.
Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini) and Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) experienced different fortunes in the previous round, the Japanese scoring his best premier class result to date with fourth whilst the Italian ended the race 12th. Dovizioso’s last premier class podium came at Estoril in the penultimate round of 2010.
Héctor Barberá’s (Mapfre Aspar Team) sixth at Jerez was another premier class personal best and the Spaniard will aim to build on that further, whilst rookie Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) finished eighth after a fall in the wet and now heads to another new track in Estoril. The Brit is another rider to have taken advantage of the almost four-week break to have undergone surgery, having an arm issue sorted out. Fellow rookie Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing) will be confident after taking seventh at the last outing.
Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini) will be more determined than ever to record a first premier class podium having crashed out whilst leading at Jerez, likewise Factory Yamaha Racing’s Ben Spies will want to make up for taking no points at Jerez having been set for a podium finish when he fell whilst riding in second position. Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) will also feel he has a point to prove after crashing in Spain, Toni Elías (LCR Honda) returns to the sight of his sole premier class victory, and Pramac Racing duo Loris Capirossi and Randy de Puniet will hope for an upturn in fortunes. The Frenchman had a screw removed from his left knee following Jerez, as he underwent follow-up surgery from his broken leg suffered last season.
Hoping to make a welcome return after missing the opening two races of the season following a fractured left femur, suffered in Qatar, is Álvaro Bautista. The Rizla Suzuki rider has been working hard to regain fitness and make his comeback just six weeks to the day after he sustained the injury, and has been named on the entry list for Estoril.