This weekend the traveling circus known as MotoGP
moves to Estoril, Portugal for Round 3 of the 2012 calendar. With two winners thus far and many hard fought battles during the first two rounds, what can we expect to see come Sunday when the red lights go out? Will we see the first repeat victory of this season, or will another rider step up and
Casey Stoner comes into Portugal just four points back from Jorge Lorenzo. Can he finally take a win in Estoril?
rise to the top step of the podium? Either way if the first two rounds are any indication of things to come, Estoril could be a slugfest.
bagged his first win of the season at Jerez, finally notching his belt with a victory at the Spanish circuit. Despite issues with chatter from the front and rear ends of his Repsol Honda, the reigning champ led from Lap 3 and held Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo
at bay in the final laps. Estoril is the only track at which the Australian has not won; perhaps the momentum from Jerez can push him to scratch the last track off his list and capture the points lead. The Portuguese circuit will undoubtedly test his propensity to suffer from arm pump with its hard braking zones and tire-shredding right turns. Throw in the issue of chatter, and the odds are certainly stacked against him.
Stoner’s teammate, Dani Pedrosa
took the win last year and has finished on the podium four out of the last five years. If you were a Vegas bookie, the Number-26 Respol liveried machine would be the odds-on favorite. Last weekend the Spaniard was too cautious in the slightly damp conditions in the first part of the race, but pushed hard in the late
(Above) Lorenzo's tire choice in Jerez may have kept him from a repeat victory. (Below) Cal Crutchlow is so close to a podium finish. Could Estoril be his race?
stages, finishing third. He has the speed and does not suffer from the same chatter issues of his stable mate. This one could be his; it should be his if he wants to keep the championship in sight.
Yamaha’s Lorenzo comes into Estoril still holding the points lead, but with the two factory Hondas bringing the pressure can he leave with it? Last week, his choice in soft tires cost him as they went away after seven laps, and hampered his efforts to fight for the win. He may run into the same problem with tire choice this Sunday as the weather forecast shows showers until Saturday evening.
And how about Monster Energy Yamaha’s Cal Crutchlow
? He’s ever so close to getting up on the podium. Could this weekend be it? He may not have what it takes yet to best the points leaders one-on-one, a single mistake from any of them could open the door wide enough for him to walk on through. He tries hard and we hope that he gets up on the box sooner rather than later.
American Ben Spies
has struggled to put up a solid result thus far in the 2012 season. A lack of front-end feel on his YZR-M1 has relegated him to 11th place for two rounds in a row. Not exactly where anyone would expect him to finish after promising preseason testing. In order to move forward, his front wheel chatter woes must be solved – a tall order for the notoriously tricky to set-up Estoril.
Then there is the struggling duo of Ducatis. Both Nicky Hayden
and Valentino Rossi
have finished on the wrong half of the top-10 in the first two outings this year. Hayden showed some promise with a front row qualifying position in
Team Ducati is struggling to find a solution to the GP12 Desmo's handling problems.
Jerez, but ultimately ended in eighth place. Rossi was one step behind in ninth. Don’t expect much better results in Estoril from the Ducati camp as both riders still maintain the GP12 Desmosedici’s understeer problems are hampering their efforts while engineers struggle to provide a solution. After the Portugal round the team will test some new engine set-up to help with the power delivery issues that seem to be contributing to the Ducati’s understeer woes. Maybe they will be able turn things around in France, but if you are a Ducati fan this weekend don’t get your hopes too high.
Choosing a standout for the CRT teams this Sunday is difficult at best. Grab a dartboard, place the CRT entries on it, close your eyes and fire away. You results have just as much merit as my pontifications on the Claiming Rule Teams. None of the teams have had any testing time on the Portuguese circuit, and finding a set-up is tough for teams that have mountains of data from previous races. Maybe Randy de Puniet
will live up to his expectations as the top CRT finisher, but it is really too difficult to be sure of anything in this group just yet.