Previews from the 125cc and Moto2 teams:
Mahindra sparks up to build on success
April 26, 2011, Mumbai: The new Mahindra Racing team scored its first points at the last GP at Jerez on April 3. Now the Italy-based Indian-owned squad goes to Portugal, confident of building on that success in the Portuguese Grand Prix on April 29 – May 1.
Competing in the highly competitive 125 class, the Mahindra team were pleased when young German rider Marcel Schrötter (18) picked his way through into the top 15, placing 13th to score points for the Mahindra in only its second race.
"We were pleased, but not satisfied. Our aim is much higher," said Team Principal Mufaddal Choonia. "We want to keep moving forward."
The target is being attacked on two sides, with technical improvements to the engine and the chassis now ready for testing at the Estoril circuit, venue for the Portuguese GP.
Riders Schrötter and Englishman Danny Webb (20) will have a new electronic ignition and new rear suspension to try. The new spark system and shock absorber will be available for the race, and particularly also for thorough testing at the private test day after the GP.
Webb was a strong 11th in Spain and in a potential sixth or seventh when he fell victim to treacherous conditions and slid off. This makes him especially anxious to get his name also on the championship table, as he returns to the track where he previously scored his best finish.
The circuit, outside of Lisbon, is a technically difficult 4.182 km combining a long straight with some very tight corners. This is the third round of the season, after the Japanese GP scheduled for April 24 was postponed; and the first chance for the riders to race in four weeks.
"I was on for a good result in Spain when I slipped off, but I know I can come back stronger at Estoril. I'm learning more about the bike all the time and we're all working together well. In 2008 I was fifth here, so I know the track suits my style. After this long break, I can't wait."
"I wish we could have had another race straight after Jerez. At the end, when I found my rhythm, my lap time was the same as the top five. I need to work on being faster earlier in the race, and that's what I'll be doing at Estoril."
The Portuguese Grand Prix opens with practice sessions on Friday 29 April, followed by qualifying on Saturday 30. The race takes place at 14:30 local time on Sunday May 1.
PIRRO LOOKS FOR MORE AT ESTORIL AS TAKAHASHI RACES IN MEMORY OF HIS BROTHER KOKI
When the Moto2 engines fire up at Estoril this weekend it will be almost a month since they were switched off at Jerez. The postponement of the Grand Prix of Japan due to the tragic earthquake and tsunami have meant a lengthy break from World Championship action, during which time Yuki Takahashi has suffered a personal tragedy with the loss of his brother Koki, who died in a road accident on the 23rd April. Yuki has decided to race this weekend because it is what is brother would have wanted and although it won't be easy for him he is determined to ride in his honour. Michele Pirro, meanwhile, remains determined to establish himself amongst the best riders in the class.
Yuki Takahashi "I am so sad at the moment it is hard for me to even think back to the last race at Jerez or wonder what I might be capable of at Estoril. No doubt I will take to the track with Koki in my mind. He was only 23 and I want to race in his honour. That is what he would have wanted so I will do everything in my power to cope with it."
Michele Pirro "I am really upset by the tragedy that has befallen my team-mate. It is a sad moment and I want to do anything I can to help Yuki get through this difficult time. I wasn't totally satisfied with the result at Jerez because I feel I could have done better but I tried my hardest in the conditions. We gathered a lot of data over the weekend that the engineers will be able to use to improve the bike for Estoril. I have been training really hard during the break and I feel in good shape for Estoril, a circuit where I went quite well during the winter tests. I am confident I can be amongst the front of the Moto2 field."
Fausto Gresini "There are no words to reflect the tragedy of such a young death. It is a very sad time and the whole team will be supporting Yuki. It is a great pleasure to have him with us at Estoril and we hope he can honour his brother Koki in the best possible way. Pirro has to continue with the positive progress he has already made and I am sure he will be amongst the frontrunners in Moto2. We have a great team with two fast riders and I am sure we will have plenty to celebrate over the course of the season. We have a great relationship with Moriwaki and together we will enjoy success in Moto2."
BANKIA ASPAR RIDER NICO TEROL LOOKING FOR THIRD STRAIGHT WIN
Héctor Faubel hoping to be team-mate's biggest rival at a circuit where he has already tasted success
After an unexpected three-week Easter break the MotoGP World Championship resumes this weekend with the Grand Prix of Portugal, a long standing fixture that takes place at the start of the season this year as opposed to its usual late summer slot. Spanish fans consider it their fifth home race of the season and thousands of them will again make the short trip over the border to support their riders at Estoril. It is only 570km from Jerez, the scene of the last race, to Estoril and after dominating his home Grand Prix Nico Terol is looking to do so again as he tries to extend his lead at the top of the championship.
Terol and his BANKIA Aspar team-mate Héctor Faubel are both targeting victory after an impressive start to the year. The former has won both of the opening two races and has a score to settle with Estoril, having lost out in a memorable 2010 race. The latter was the only man to challenge Nico's dominance at Jerez and was robbed of a podium by a crash on the last lap. Héctor took victory in Portugal in 2007 and finished second there in 2005 and 2006. Meanwhile BANKIA Aspar Team youngster Adrián Martín is looking to turn around a disappointing start to the campaign but enjoyed a test session at Valencia last week and is looking to put the progress made to good use this weekend.
Nico Terol: "I head to Portugal feeling really motivated after starting the season with two important wins. I have got my feet firmly on the ground though because I know that my rivals are also determined to put some wins together. I have spent the break training very hard because I am in a good run of form and I want to make sure it continues. I have got some unfinished business at Estoril so I will be doing everything I can to stand on the top step of that podium. You have to be versatile at this track because the weather is very changeable and you need to be adaptable to the different conditions."
Héctor Faubel: "Estoril is a circuit with a lot of good memories for me because I had my first podium there and then I won in 2007. After testing at Valencia last week hopefully we'll have a little bit more to give this weekend. We worked out how to get the best out of our engine and I hope we get a bit of luck in Portugal and finish on the podium. I'll be making sure I don't make the kind of mistake I made at Jerez and hopefully fighting all the way to the end for the win. Estoril quite twisty but it has a long straight and the corner onto it is really fast."
Adrián Martín: "I am really looking forward to going to Portugal. The two first races of the season have not gone to plan so I want to put that right. The season has only just started to we have the opportunity to turn it around. I didn't have a good time at Estoril last year but everything is different with this team and I am really enjoying it so I just hope we can find some speed now."
MAPFRE ASPAR TEAM TARGETING THE PODIUM AT ESTORIL
Julián Simón looking to build on Valencia test at a circuit he loves
For the second year running the Grand Prix of Japan was postponed due to a natural disaster, meaning that the third round of the season will be the Grand Prix of Portugal this weekend. From being the penultimate fixture on the calendar last year the Estoril circuit will now play host to the MotoGP World Championship in late spring so the teams and riders will be hoping for better weather, with last year's qualifying cancelled due to a heavy downpour. With Stefan Bradl winning the first race of the season and Andrea Iannone the second the majority of the fans at the circuit will no doubt be hoping for a Spanish winner, with Julián Simón and Marc Márquez looking their best bet despite a tricky start to the campaign.
MAPFRE Aspar rider Simón has used the break to evaluate a start to the season that has promised much but is yet to deliver podiums. A test at Valencia last week has helped give him a head start on his set-up for this weekend and Julián is looking forward to getting to a circuit that has suited him well in the past. On the other side of the MAPFRE Aspar garage Xavi Forés will look to get to grips quickly with a circuit where he has only spent two days, at a rain-hit winter test. However, he likes the Estoril layout and after also enjoying a positive test at Valencia he is looking forward to a good weekend.
Julián Simón: "Estoril is a circuit that has always suited me well and I have always been fast there. Last year I wasn't able to finish with a good result because of the disastrous weather. Hopefully this year we are not affacted by the weather as much as we have been in the past. I am really motivated to be riding at a circuit I love, especially after a productive test at Valencia. The Grand Prix of Portugal takes place very close to Spain so there will be lots of fans and friends there to support us and I am sure we'll have a fabulous weekend. The objective is to score a first podium of the season and if possible fight for the win. We'll be working hard from day one to make sure that's the case."
Xavi Forés: "The test at Valencia last week was really good for us because we were able to draw some positive conclusions. The first two races haven't gone to plan but I am sure the work we did last week will help us improve and take a step foreward. We are not too far from the front guys but the lap times are so close in Moto2 that a second is a lifetime. So I am looking forard to getting to Estoril, a track I don't know well although I had two days there to at least learn the layout. It will be like another Spanish race because of the amount of fans coming over so that's an extra motivation."
REDDING AND KALLIO BACK ON TRACK AT ESTORIL
Marc VDS Racing Team riders, Scott Redding and Mika Kallio, head for this weekend's Portuguese Grand Prix at Estoril determined to get their 2011 season back on track, after two difficult races in Qatar and Jerez.
The Marc VDS riders are keen to resume racing this weekend in Portugal, after a rare early-season break due to the postponement of the Japanese Grand Prix.
Both Redding and Kallio tested at Estoril back in February, when wet conditions severely limited track time. The few laps they did manage could stand both Marc VDS riders in good stead this weekend, however, as the weather forecast is for a 60 percent chance of rain on all three days.
Neither of the Marc VDS riders count Estoril amongst their favourite circuits, but Redding took a hard fought fourth place there last season, while Kallio secured his first ever Grand Prix win at the circuit with victory in the 2005 125cc race.
Estoril is one of the slowest tracks in the Moto2 calendar but it nonetheless represents a huge challenge to the riders as it snakes its way through 13 corners, including numerous hairpins and a technically demanding chicane.
Then there's the famous long, stretched-out, tyre-eating Parabolica, which sees the bikes at maximum lean for what must seem like an eternity before they get on the throttle for the start finish straight, which stretches for almost one kilometre.
Built in 1972, the circuit, close to Portugal's Atlantic coast and not far from the capital city, Lisbon, hosted its first Grand Prix in 2000 and has witnessed some of the closest racing in the championship's history.
Mika Kallio #36:
"We tested at Estoril over the winter, so we know what to expect this weekend. I don't like the circuit so much. For me it's a bit of a Mickey Mouse track, very stop and go, with a lot of slow corners. But, for some reason, I've had good results there in the past, including my first GP win in 2005. We head for Portugal aiming for a podium finish this weekend. Given the results so far this season, this may seem overly optimistic, but if comes together for us then it's possible. I've beaten many of the riders before who are now finishing top five, so we need to keep our aims high. We made some improvements to the bike in Jerez, although this wasn't reflected in the result, so I'm heading to Estoril confident we can get our season back on track."
Scott Redding #45:
The forecast for this weekend at Estoril is for rain, but hopefully it won't be like last year when it was so heavy they had to cancel qualifying! The Estoril circuit is quite technical with a lot of heavy braking areas and, if I'm honest, it's not one of my favourites. We've struggled with the front of the bike so far this season, but I know the team have been working hard to improve things since Jerez. Hopefully I'll be able to get the feeling back from the front this weekend and put my season back on track. Last year I was fourth at Estoril in damp conditions, but I hope I can go at least one place better this time around and grab my first podium of the new season."
Michael Bartholemy: Team Manager
"The aim is simple this weekend; we need to come away from Estoril with our first championship points of the season. It's been a difficult start to the season so far, with Mika hampered by the injury he picked up in pre-season testing and Scott struggling to get to terms with the 2011 Suter chassis. Mika seemed to be more comfortable on the bike in Jerez, where he and his crew made some progress with set-up, and I hope he can carry that momentum into this weekend after such a long break. For Scott we need to give him back the feeling he had with the front end of last year's bike. We have some options to try in practice at Estoril and, I hope, that this will give him back the confidence in the bike that he's been lacking since the start of the season. Like I said, it's important we score points this weekend and get our championship campaign back on track."