April 29th, 2011
Rain started to fall just before the second session of free practice for the Moto2 class started, making it perhaps worse than a washout: the track was too wet to work on dry setup, and not wet enough to work on a proper wet setup, meaning that most of the riders spent the entire session sitting in the pits. The fast times were set early, but mean very little, though Yuki Takahashi once again topped the timesheets.
Marco Simoncelli has shown that his fast time in the morning session at Estoril was no fluke by taking top spot in FP2 for the MotoGP class. The San Carlo Gresini Honda rider just edged Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo, who was in turn just three thousandths of a second faster than Repsol Dani Pedrosa. Valentino Rossi ended the session in 4th but with an identical time to Casey Stoner, posted right at the every end of the session, and from directly behind the tail of Stoner's Repsol Honda. Stoner threw a little fuel on the fire at the end of his lap by turning round to Rossi and tapping the tail of his Honda, insinuating that the only reason Rossi set that time was thanks to a tow by the Australian. Rossi's strong times earlier in the session would appear to contradict such an accusation, however.
Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider Colin Edwards set the 6th fastest time, finishing ahead of the once again impressive Karel Abraham, the Czech rider putting his Cardion AB Ducati into 7th, ahead of the factory Yamaha of Ben Spies and the factory Ducati of Nicky Hayden. Hector Barbera rounds out the top 10 on the Mapfre Aspar Ducati.
Nico Terol's dominance of the 125cc class continues unchallenged at Estoril, the Bankia Aspar rider topping the second session of free practice here after being fastest in the morning. The gap to 2nd has shrunk a little, Sandro Cortese now just three quarters of a second behind Terol, rather than the full second he trailed by this morning. Surprising Frenchman Johann Zarco continues to impress, by setting the 3rd fastest time during FP2, while Hector Faubel was 4th fastest. Local hero - and one of the men whoh dominated the Spanish 125cc CEV championship last year - Miguel Oliveira finished in 5th.
Yuki Takahashi topped a torrid session of free practice for the Moto2 class at Estoril, taking the lead at the very end of the session. Thomas Luthi was the man Takahashi deposed, the Interwetten rider having swapped top spot with Marc VDS Racing's Scott Redding for much of FP1. Redding ended the session in 4th, Marc Marquez squeezing ahead of the young Briton at the end. Moto2 championship leader Andrea Iannone could only manage the 9th fastest time, after struggling throughout much of the session.
Hostilities have been resumed in the MotoGP class at Estoril, and the first session of free practice turned into a much more interesting affair than FP1 usually manages. The lead swapped constantly throughout the session, with San Carlo Gresini's Marco Simoncelli and factory Yamaha man Jorge Lorenzo taking turns at the top, later joined by Repsol Honda's Casey Stoner.
Simoncelli came out on top at the end, setting the fastest lap at the very end of the session, and pushing Stoner down into 2nd, ahead of his Repsol teammate Dani Pedrosa. Jorge Lorenzo ended the session in 4th, ahead of Valentino Rossi, the Italian putting in a very strong showing on the Marlboro Ducati. Andrea Doviziso finished behind Rossi, but ahead of the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha of Colin Edwards and the second factory Yamaha of Ben Spies. Hector Barbera of the Aspar Ducati team and Randy de Puniet on the Pramac Ducati rounded out the top ten.
Nico Terol continues his utter domination of the 125cc class, setting the fastest time in the first session of free practice with a lead of over a second. Johann Zarco is the 2nd fastest man, just a head of Hector Faubel and Sandro Cortese, while Efren Vazquez is 5th.
After a month's enforced rest, the MotoGP paddock has reassembled once again at Estoril, and at the press conference, the assembled riders - with one exception - looked as if they hadn't missed the media attention one single bit. The exception was Alvaro Bautista, the Rizla Suzuki rider barely able to believe his luck being back and with a chance of riding, just 41 days after breaking his femur in a horrific practice crash at Qatar.
Bautista positively beamed, speaking enthusiastically about the chance to start riding again, though still only cautiously optimistic he would be able to ride properly, the fracture still a little painful and without full motion in his leg. However, anyone who has followed Bautista's recovery process - driving to Madrid almost every day from his home in Talavera to spend time in a hyperbaric chamber. Sitting still is the one thing that motorcycle racers are not very good at, so spending a couple of hours doing nothing while getting a headache from too much oxygen is just about the worst thing you can do to a rider.
The last of the preview press releases: from LCR Honda, Karel Abraham and his Cardion AB squad, and Moto2 chassis manufacturer FTR:
It is becoming increasingly clear that the new MotoGP rules due to take effect from 2012 are just the start of more major changes coming further in the future. The hiring of Corrado Cecchinelli - formerly of Ducati Corse - as Director of Technology was one part of this puzzle, and today another piece fell into place, with the signing of the former Director of Bridgestone Motorsports, Hiroshi Yasukawa, as an advisor to Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta.
Yasukawa's exact role is unclear; the press release merely says that the former Bridgestone executive will be "providing his insight on the further development of the sport." Given Yasukawa's previous job, it seems likely that his input will focus mainly on the role that tires play in the series, and ways of affecting the series through the use of a spec supplier.
Alvaro Bautista has passed the second hurdle on his way to recovery after breaking his femur during practice at Qatar. After receiving the go-ahead from the surgeon supervising his recovery, Dr Villamor, earlier this week, the Rizla Suzuki rider has now also been passed fit to ride by the Estoril circuit doctor, Dr Sarmento. Bautista faces one final test, and that is a personal one, of how he feels on the bike. He will evaluate whether he feels strong enough to race during free practice on Friday, and if he feels comfortable, will take part in Sunday's Portuguese MotoGP round at Estoril. If Bautista does not race, then Suzuki test rider Nobu Aoki will take his place, as the Japanese veteran is already on hand to take part in the MotoGP test scheduled for the Monday after the race.
Below is the press release from the Rizla Suzuki team:
Yet another press release prior to Estoril, this time from the Pramac Ducati team:
Pity the poor Portuguese MotoGP round. While so many other races sit ostentatiously in fixed slots in the calendar - Qatar as the season opener in March or April, Assen on the last Saturday in June, Laguna Seca as the last race in July before the summer break, Valencia as the last race of the season in November - the Estoril round of MotoGP is constantly being shoved back and forth in the calendar, from early to late and back to early again. Race fans planning a visit to the Portuguese Grand Prix are forced to wait for the calendar to be finalized before deciding whether to book a trip to the track on the edge of the Atlantic.
That vast body of water is part of the problem: the reason for shifting the Estoril MotoGP race back and forth in the calendar - apart from fitting it in among the more solid fixtures in the season - is to avoid the wet and windy conditions that so often prevail whenever the series visits the track. It is hard to blame the weather entirely on the circuit, however; MotoGP only ever visits the track in either early spring or late autumn, times of year when the nearby Atlantic plays a more active role in the weather, bringing wind and rain to the circuit on a regular basis.
Yet another press release preview, this time from the Marlboro Ducati duo of Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden, in which they hope for dry weather. Their hopes are likely to go unheard, given the weather forecast. Here's the press release:
A couple more press releases from the MotoGP teams previewing the upcoming Estoril round, including words from the winner of the three last editions, Jorge Lorenzo:
Previews from the 125cc and Moto2 teams: