The Fiat Yamaha duo of Jorge Lorenzo (above) and Valentino Rossi (below) both have strong records at the Estoril circuit and will be a difficult pair to beat.
The MotoGP paddock will be returning to Europe this weekend for the penultimate round of the 2010 championship. Next up on the schedule is Estoril – located just off the Atlantic in Portugal. Although both the Riders’ and Teams’ Championships have already been decided, there is still an entire field left scrambling for last-minute points.
The 2010 World Champion, Jorge Lorenzo, and his teammate Valentino Rossi will both be aiming to end the season in perfect form as the Fiat Yamaha team seeks its 10th overall win of the season. Lorenzo especially will be in full fighting spirit as he seeks to reaffirm his status as world champion. He comes to Estoril with an impeccable record at the Portuguese circuit. The 23-year-old has two MotoGP wins there, and in both races he started from pole position. However, Lorenzo has yet to take a win since Brno this season, and his six-race winless spell doesn’t bode well with the Spaniard.
“We now have the last two races in a row, and they are two very special races,” Lorenzo said. “The first one is Estoril, where I’ve had some of my best moments in MotoGP in the last two seasons. I had never won there before in 125 or 250, but since 2008 I have had two victories. It’s the only place where I’ve won twice in this category! I like the Estoril track and I always seem to feel so good there. Also it always seems a bit like another Spanish GP. Many people from home are coming and I am looking forward to feeling their support, because it’s the first time I’ve ridden so close to home since becoming World Champion. I am still on a high and I will try to win again, like last year when the astronaut arrived!”
Despite Lorenzo’s perfect record at Estoril, it still does not match Rossi’s five wins on the circuit. Last year was the Italian’s first time in 10 trips that he fell from the podium. Resolved to return to the steps at Estoril this year, Rossi has posted strong finishes during the recent fly-away series, including three podiums and a momentous victory at Sepang.
Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa will be returning at Estoril to defend second-place in the championship.
“The flyaways were very good for us, three podiums including one win – we were happy with how much we had improved the bike and also the level of my shoulder,” Rossi said. “Now we return to Europe and I feel very strongly that I want to enjoy these final two races and try to win again. Estoril was not a good track for me last year, we had some problems and I couldn’t make it onto the podium so we will be trying to change that this year. After Phillip Island we hope the weather will be a bit warmer, but Estoril can change very quickly so it could be a factor again.”
Some big new for the coming race is that Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa will be making a return after his big crash during practice at Motegi. The Spaniard recently had surgery to repair his broken collarbone, and had to miss the previous round in Australia. Now, the Spaniard will be eager to post strong results after resting for nearly two weeks. He is second in the championship and returns just in time to defend his place in the series from Ducati’s Casey Stoner.
Meanwhile Stoner, who has taken three wins in the last four races, put on a dominating display during the last round in Australia and finished more than eight seconds ahead of Lorenzo. The closest that Ducati and the Aussie have come to taking a win at Estoril came last year when he posted second-place. This year, however, Stoner has much more in his favor as recent changes in the setup of his bike have paid major dividends in recent rounds. The 25-year-old will be seeking his fourth win of the season and will look to surpass Dani Pedrosa in the championship for second-place in the coming rounds.
Casey Stoner had an impressive win in the last round and will be looking for his fourth win of the season at Estoril.
“I have had a mixture of different results at Estoril – some good like my first 250cc win in 2005 and a podium in 2007, some not so good like when we had a problem with the on-board camera in 2008,” Stoner said. “Then we were back on the podium again in 2009. I was fast there last year, but Jorge (Lorenzo) was a little faster. He is very strong at this circuit and I think we can expect him to be so again on Sunday.”
Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso has had a consistent 2010 season and has been on fire lately, taking two podiums in the last three rounds. Currently fifth in the series, Dovizioso will be trying to put the final touches on a year which saw him begin with four podiums in the first five races.
Stoner’s Ducati teammate, Nicky Hayden, has been making drastic strides near the end of the season and is currently seventh in the championship – just 11 points behind Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Ben Spies. In the last round the American missed a podium finish by less than four-tenths, and has only had one podium so far this year. Hayden will need extremely impressive runs in the last two rounds if he wants to topple the phenomenal rookie season that Spies has been having.
Ben Spies has had eight top-five finishes in his first year on the MotoGP circuit and recently won Rookie of the Year.
“The end of the season is on the horizon but we have two races left to do well in so it’s now or never as far as this season is concerned,” said Hayden. “Estoril is pretty normal, there’s nothing really special about the track apart from a very fast section on the back straight and then towards the end of the lap there’s a chicane which I think is the slowest in MotoGP. The track is very tight, which makes it demanding and, given that the circuit is close to the ocean, like Phillip Island, you usually get wind and changeable weather. In any case we are ready for any conditions and looking to finish the season in a positive way.”
Recently named the 2010 MotoGP Rookie of the Year, Spies is currently sixth in the championship and has managed eight top-five finishes in his first year of MotoGP racing. Most recently, the Texan placed fifth at Phillip Island and now returns to Europe trailing Dovizioso by 16 points.
Rizla Suzuki’s Loris Capirossi will be making a courageous return at Estoril. Officially diagnosed with fractures to his right foot and a severe groin injury which he sustained in Australia, Capirossi remains adamant about participating in the final rounds of the season.
“It was disappointing to find out I had some small fractures in my foot, but it won’t stop me from riding, because I was OK in Australia and it didn’t cause me too many problems there – in fact it is easier to ride the bike than it is to walk,” said Capirossi. “I have had some intensive treatment on the thigh muscle and that is also a lot better. I can’t wait to get back on my bike and give the guys something back for all their patience and hard-work over the season, especially after the tough three-week tour we had on the other side of the world which gave us nothing but pain and bike damage. Suzuki and the team have always been good to me and I want to show them that I am here to do my best and compete with the best riders.”
Fimmco Speed Up’s Andrea Iannone is locked in a tense feud with Alex de Angelis and the two remain separated by just two points in the Moto 2 class.
Like MotoGP, the Moto 2 class may already have its first champion but the battle between remaining riders still rages on. Toni Elias officially ended the chase for the top spot in Malaysia, but Mapfre Aspar’s Julian Simon and Fimmco Speed Up’s Andrea Iannone remain embroiled in a bitter tug of war with each other for runner-up in the series. Heading into the final two races of the season the rivals remain separated by just two points.
World Champion Toni Elias has an impressive record at the Estoril circuit of three wins in a variety of classes, including MotoGP in 2006. Although he stands an excellent shot at pulling the win, the majority of spectators will be feverishly watching the action between Simon and Iannone. Neither of them has achieved a podium result at the circuit before, and Iannone has not posted a top-10 finish in four visits to the track.
Currently fourth in the championship and trailing Iannone by 36 points is Interwetten Moriwaki’s Thomas Luthi. The Swiss rider has had much better luck at the Portugese circuit, where he has claimed numerous podium results in the 125cc class, and two fourth-place finishes in the 250cc category.
Running fifth in the series is JiR Moto2’s Simone Corsi, who had strong results at Estoril in 2008 when he took a victory from pole position. Other riders who appear to be in fighting form for Estoril are Scott Redding and Alex de Angelis, with both posting strong rides in the most recent round at Phillip Island.