San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Marco Simoncelli was quickest in both practice sessions at the bwin Grande Prémio de Portugal on Friday, as the World Championship resumed action.
The Italian lost the front end of his Honda going into Turn 3 midway through the second session so had to jump onto his second machine, but he was never headed. The 24 year-old won at this circuit back in 2009 in the former 250cc class and will be aiming for his maiden podium finish this weekend, after missing out on the opportunity at Jerez in the previous round.
The second session of the day – in the afternoon – was run in much hotter temperatures underneath the Portuguese sunshine. The MotoGP class just missed out on the rain which began to fall at the end of the 45-minute practice, and all 17 riders improved on their earlier times to end the day spread across 2.510s.
Reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing) who has won from pole position at Estoril for the previous three seasons was consistently quick throughout the day and finished with a deficit of just 0.061s to Simoncelli. The 23 year-old was 0.003s faster than his rival Dani Pedrosa in third. The Repsol Honda rider has yet to win in any category at this circuit and it is one of only four venues the Spaniard has been unable to achieve victory at.
Finishing on identical lap times of 1’38.102 were Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team) and Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda) after their much talked about coming together from the last race in Jerez. The Italian has had five wins here in the premier class, whilst the Australian is yet to take victory in the premier class at Estoril.
Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) was again solidly in the top ten, keen to put the disappointment of Jerez behind him. The American has had two fourth places here, in 2006 and 2008, which are his best results at this circuit. Rookie Karel Abraham (Cardion ab Motoracing) was seventh quickest, and the Czech rider finished in 10th place here last season in the Moto2 race.
Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing) has not had a happy time so far at this venue after crashing on the sighting lap in 2010. After a run off in first practice in the morning, the Yamaha rider was eighth fastest, 0.9s off Simoncelli’s best time.
The final two places in the top went to two Ducati machines. Ninth was Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team) who will be hoping to achieve the first win for Ducati at this circuit. Héctor Barberá (Mapfre Aspar Team), who had his best ever finish in MotoGP thanks to his sixth place in Jerez, was tenth quickest in FP2. The ten riders were covered by less than a second.
Making his return to action was Rizla Suzuki rider Álvaro Bautista, who completed both the practice sessions in his first MotoGP action since breaking his left femur in Qatar.
The Moto2 class experienced different fortunes with the weather, enjoying good conditions for the morning session but being affected by rain in the afternoon. Yuki Takahashi (Gresini Racing) topped the day’s times with a 1’42.202, closely followed by Tom Lüthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2) at 0.011s further back and Marc Márquez (Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol) who was 0.042s off the Japanese rider’s time.
Scott Redding (Marc VDS Racing) and Michele Pirro (Gresini Racing) were both in the top five, with Mika Kallio (Marc VDS Racing), Bradley Smith (Tech 3), Stefan Bradl (Viessmann Kiefer Racing), Andrea Iannone (Speed Master) and Alex de Angelis (JiR Moto2) all inside the top ten.
Thanks to the scheduled order of the sessions the 125cc riders escaped the rain along with the MotoGP class, and true to form it was Nico Terol leading the way. The Bankia Aspar rider’s best lap of 1’46.385 from the second session of the day topped the combined session times, placing him a substantial 0.708s ahead of Sandro Cortese (Intact Racing Team Germany).
The German was followed by Johann Zarco (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo) inside the top three, with Héctor Faubel (Bankia Aspar) and Portuguese rider Miguel Oliveira (Team Andalucía Banca Cívica) completing the top five.