There appears to be a new rule of thumb for gauging the weather: If there's a motorcycle race on, then chances are it will be raining, at least for some of the time. After a weekend of climate-curtailed practice 7 days ago at Jerez, the weather looks like being a major factor at Estoril as well. Though no rain fell during any of the 9 sessions of practice - two Moto3, two Moto2, two MotoGP and three Red Bull Rookies - took place, the rain was still very much a factor.
Today, the weather behaved itself and let Monza be the speed-trap it was designed to be. Michel Fabrizio's provisional pole lap time on his BMW included a 334.8kmh (209mph) dash through the speed trap, equalling the previous fastest time of Max Biaggi's damned fast Aprilia, and BMWs ruled the roost all day. Marco Melandri and Leon Haslam spend most of the qualifying session at the sharp end, duelling on paper with Tom Sykes, who lost out top non-BMW to Aprilia's Eugene Laverty.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after the first day of practice at Estoril:
Crutchlow continues red-hot form in Estoril
Cal Crutchlow's phenomenal start to the 2012 MotoGP World Championship continued in impressive fashion in Portugal this afternoon, the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team rider finishing third quickest after the opening two practice sessions.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the first day of practice at Estoril:
CARETTA TECHNOLOGY - Estoril GP day 01
Just the time to recover from Jerez and the MotoGP circus is already back on track at Estoril for the third race of the season. Jack Miller, successfully operated on the shoulder of Dr. Mir, still recovering waiting Le Mans. In his place, the team enlists the young Manuel Tatasciore today for the second time in the Moto3 get the 27th time.
Alexis Masbou, in improvement after Doha incident, get 5th time.
Press releases from the World Supersport and World Superbike teams after practice on Friday at Monza:
Jules learning Monza fast
PTR HONDA'S Jules Cluzel on his debut visit is learning the fast Monza circuit quickly and is in provisional 10th on the grid for Sunday's fourth round of the World Supersport Championship in Italy.
Scott Redding ended the first day of practice for the Moto2 class on top of the pile at Estoril, the Marc VDS Racing rider taking charge of FP2 halfway through the session and posting a blistering lap well inside the lap record, despite the fact that the track was still patchy in parts, especially in the final corner. Try as he might, Marc Marquez could not get close to Redding's time, leaving him as 2nd fastest, two tenths behind Redding and another two tenths behind Thomas Luthi.
This afternoon's qualifying carried on from this morning, with riders putting in faster times within just a couple of laps. Marco Melandri and Tom Sykes clawed past each other into the 1'42s. The Aprilias of Max Biaggi and Eugene Laverty were, unlike earlier, in the mix from an early stage, along with the BMWs of Leon Haslam and Michel Fabrizio.
What followed was a demonstration of how important having the right machinery is for Monza, unless you're Tom Sykes, of course. If you didn't have a BMW or an Aprilia, you weren't in the running to beat Sykes.
Casey Stoner has taken charge of the second session of free practice for the MotoGP class at Estoril, taking a clear lead over the Yamahas of Ben Spies and Cal Crutchlow. On a dry track, though with conditions still some way from perfect, the Repsol Honda man stepped up the pace towards the end of the session to take over from Spies and leave himself over three tenths clear of the Yamahas.
With the weather now settled and the track dry, the Moto3 class took to the Estoril circuit on Friday afternoon to start serious work on finding a set up for Sunday's Portuguese Grand Prix. Local hero Miguel Oliveira set the fastest tim, just edging KTM's Sandro Cortese from the top spot, while RW Racing's Luis Salom ended the session in 3rd. Maverick Vinales finished 4th in FP2, ahead of Alexis Masbou and last weekend's winner, Italian sensation Romano Fenati.
Again, Sam Lowes was the first rider into the 1'48s, but it was Kenan Sofuoglu who topped the charts until the last second when Lowes pulled a rabbit out of the hat, just catching one last lap at the end of the session, and set a 1'47.601, faster than last year's pole position, after the flag was out.
Sheridan Morais and Fabien Foret fill the remaining provisional front row spots with Kawasakis while Stefano Cruciani followed up this morning's excellent fifth place with another one.
Pol Espargaro has topped the first session of free practice for the Moto2 class at Estoril, the Pons Kalex rider posting a fast lap at the end of the session to edge ahead of Marc Marquez, who had in turn just sneaked ahead of Scott Redding. Redding's Marc VDS Racing teammate Mika Kallio set the 4th fastest time, while Moto2 rookie and last year's 125cc championship runner-up Johann Zarco took 5th place.
This time last year, Jonathan Rea walked away from the Friday free practice session with the fastest time, ahead of a handful of BMWs. He wouldn't be so lucky against the German machines this time round.
BMW staked their claim early on in the first free session, with Marco Melandri and Leon Haslam defending the top two spots ahead of the king of qualifying, Tom Sykes. Michel Fabrizio joined them the end, making it three BMWs in the top three places. Fast men Sykes and Rea were joined by the Aprilias of Eugene Laverty and Max Biaggi to round out the top 8.
Ben Spies has topped the first session of practice for the MotoGP class at Estoril, the Texan getting the best of the tricky conditions to top the timesheets. The track started damp, but was drying rapidly under the Portuguese sun. Most of the riders stayed inside their garages waiting for the track conditions to improve - for Hector Barbera and birthday boy Jorge Lorenzo, they didn't improve enough, the two Spaniards choosing to sit the first session of practice out - but by the end, the majority of the field felt the track was good enough to provide useful data.
Action is underway at the last MotoGP round to be run in Portugal for a while. The first session of free practice for the Moto3 class took place under sunny skies but on a track that was still soaked from the overnight rain. At the end of FP1, it was Maverick Vinales who set the fastest time, leading ahead of local hero Miguel Oliveira. Oliveira was the only rider to finish within a second of Vinales, 3rd fastest man Alberto Moncayo ending the session 1.091 behind Vinales.
After a red flag on the first out lap delayed a proper start, Sam Lowes and Broc Parkes settled into the top two places, joined by Jules Cluzel's fast CBR600 and Kenan Sofuoglu on the Kawasaki in the early part of the session. Sam Lowes was the first rider into the 1'49s, then the first into the 1'48s, where he was eventually joined by Fabien Foret and Broc Parkes. Last year's pole position was an astounding 1'47.809 by Chaz Davies, but tellingly, Sam Lowes was in second place, having to wait until Saturday before he could set a 1'48 lap; a 1'48.051.