Following an enthralling race weekend at the inaugural European round in Jerez, the MotoGP™ World Championship heads across the border to contest the Gran Prémio de Portugal Circuito Estoril.
With all three races going right down to the wire, the riders have just four days to recover before testing their machines on the Estoril track, which combines a long straight, some tyre-punishing corners, heavy braking zones, and a tricky chicane in between. Challenging enough as it is, riders and teams will be hoping for greatly improved weather conditions compared to the Spanish round, which provided different track conditions for almost every session.
Championship Leader Jorge Lorenzo, who won three years in a row at the Portuguese circuit between 2008 and 2010, will be looking to replicate that kind of form on board his Yamaha Factory Racing machine, as he looks to hold off the challenge from Repsol Honda Team pair Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa.
For Stoner, who won last weekend´s Jerez round just fractions ahead of Lorenzo, this is now the only track on the current MotoGP calendar where he has not yet recorded a premier-class win. As well as wanting to make it a full house, taking the championship lead off his Yamaha rival will be top of the agenda for the Australian. Teammate Dani Pedrosa took the win at Estoril last year ahead of Lorenzo and Stoner. Despite not running with the pair at the front in Jerez, Pedrosa is looking in good form.
Monster Yamaha Tech3´s Cal Crutchlow, who continues to be the revelation of the season after almost getting the better of Pedrosa in Spain, will be seeking his first ever podium finish in the premier class. Coy about his performances so far, the Britain will no doubt be boosted by his latest showing. His team mate, Italian Andrea Dovizioso, is still getting to grips with the Yamaha, yet will be buoyed by his fourth place finish at the Portuguese track last year.
Lorenzo´s team mate Ben Spies, who has endured two tricky first rounds, will not want to finish last Yamaha for a third time in a row, and has vowed to bounce back in the next race, after showing much promise in pre-season testing aboard his bike.
San Carlo Honda Gresini´s Álvaro Bautista and LCR Honda MotoGP´s Stefan Bradl have been consistently fast on their satellite Hondas in the first two rounds of the season. Last year at this point, Bautista was still recovering from a broken femur and finished last, while Bradl won the Moto2 race.
Ducati Team pair Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden have not had an easy start to the season, yet have been boosted by some glimpses of hope in Jerez; Hayden by putting his Ducati on the front row of the grid, and Rossi by discovering some good form in the wet. Tyre wear and handling continues to be an issue, yet the team feels it is now heading in the right direction.
Pramac Team´s Héctor Barbera, who has tussled with Rossi the previous two races will be looking to get one over the Italian in Portugal. Second satellite Ducati rider, Cardion AB Motoracing´s Karel Abraham, has had a disappointing start to the season and will be looking to turn his fortunes around this time out.
The new Claiming Rule Teams (CRT) did not have it easy in Jerez, having to adapt to the ever-changing weather and track conditions with little previous data to go on. The coming round will not prove and awful lot easier, as Estoril is a track which is renowned for providing set-up complications due to its highly varied nature. Power Electronics Aspar´s Aleix Espargaró finished top CRT last weekend, after his teammate Randy de Puniet retired towards the end. Paul Bird Motorsport´s James Ellison and San Carlo Honda Gresini´s Michele Pirro suffered a similar fate, whilst Came IodaRacing Project´s Danilo Petrucci recorded a positive 13th place for his team. Joining them will be Speed Master´s Mattia Pasini, NGM Mobile Forward Racing´s Colin Edwards, as well as Avintia Blusens pair Yonny Hernandez and Iván Silva, who will once again be gunning for top CRT spot.
The Grande Prémio de Portugal Circuito Estoril takes place from May 4-6th, and the MotoGP bikes will be on track for the first practice session at 10.10am local time on Friday morning.
World Championship Standings MotoGP™
1- Jorge Lorenzo - SPA - Yamaha - 45
2- Casey Stoner - AUS - Honda - 41
3- Dani Pedrosa - SPA - Honda - 36
4- Cal Crutchlow - GBR - Yamaha - 26
5- Andrea Dovizioso - ITA - Yamaha - 22