-- MotoGP 2011 - Teams preview
- Yamaha Preview
The MotoGP paddock sets up at the Estoril circuit on the Atlantic coast in Portugal this weekend for round three of the World Championship after an extended break. The recent disaster in Japan and subsequent postponement of the Motegi round has resulted in a four week gap between races for Yamaha Factory Racing riders Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies.
Reigning MotoGP World Champion and current Championship leader Lorenzo returns to Estoril looking to extend a perfect score sheet from the Portuguese circuit. So far the young Mallorcan has three consecutive pole position starts, race wins and fastest laps, taking nothing less than victory from every Estoril race of his MotoGP career. The later scheduling of the Portuguese race in last year’s calendar meant Lorenzo raced at Estoril in 2010 having already been crowned World Champion. He went on to deliver Yamaha’s third consecutive Triple Crown that weekend with the help of his then team mate. A flawless performance under treacherous conditions in Jerez last month delivered Lorenzo’s first race win of the season, the incident filled first Spanish round leaving most of the competition struggling to stay upright and reach the chequered flag. He arrives at Estoril nine points clear of his closest rival at the top of the Championship standings.
Yamaha Factory Racing rider Ben Spies heads back from his four week break in the USA preparing for his first Estoril MotoGP race. The 2010 round which saw Monsoon weather disrupt qualifying had initially looked positive for the then satellite Texan rider, combined practice times giving him a second row start for the race. An unfortunate high side on the second of two sighting laps however resulted in a dislocated ankle meaning Spies has yet to complete a MotoGP race here and has yet to turn a wheel on a dry Estoril track. The 2010 rookie of the year had been on track for his first podium of the year at Jerez last month. He had been running in second behind his team mate until he joined the many riders to crash out as the changeable track surface took its toll on the worn out rain tyres. Spies arrives in Estoril sitting in 12th in the Championship with ten points.
The Autodromo Fernanda Pires de Silva sits just seven kilometres from the Atlantic coast and as such is notorious for dramatic weather changes; riders can see conditions change in seconds from warm sunshine to high winds and gusts of rain. Estoril provides one of the most challenging circuits for set up, featuring one of the longest straights of the MotoGP calendar combined with the one of the slowest corners. Lorenzo and Spies will need all their rider skills to negotiate the slow twisty sections then hold their nerve for the high speed 200km/hr kink at turn five and the infamous final Parabolica corner leading to the finish line.
"This week we will be in Portugal, a country where I've had nice moments! In Estoril I got my first victory in the MotoGP class in 2008 which I repeated over the last two seasons. The track has turned into a talisman for me and it is the place where the astronaut always comes back. We have been training for a month, and I hope that this makes us fit for a good race. We are in front of the standings, but it is very early and it is just the beginning. This week will also be important since we are testing on Monday and we will certainly be able to check a lot of things for the future set-up".
“Although I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to head home and get some chill out time in Texas this break has been way to long for me. The team worked really hard over the weekend in Jerez and by race day had delivered a competitive set up that meant we could fight for the podium. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. I really enjoyed the first practice sessions here last year and was frustrated to have not made the race, I can’t wait to get started on Friday morning and see what we can do.”
“It seems like Jerez was last year, not the last round! It’s a bit strange to have such a long time away from the track during the season but of course we all know the reason. We are really looking forward to Estoril, with the position we have and knowing Jorge is strong here we think he can do a good job and compete for the podium again. It’s early in the season and our competitors have made big advances from last year but we are again fighting for the championship.”
“Estoril is a good circuit for Yamaha, it’s one of the favourite tracks for Jorge and he always gets good results here, as have other Yamaha Factory riders in the past. Despite not finishing the race at Jerez Ben showed he had the potential to finish on the podium so comes here looking to step forward again. Estoril has extra significance as we secured our Triple Crown for the third consecutive time here last year. We are confident that in the 50th year of Yamaha’s involvement in Grand Prix racing we can continue our tradition of success in Portugal.”
- Ducati Preview
Following the longest break of the entire season, brought about by the postponement of the Motegi GP, the MotoGP series returns to action for the Grand Prix of Portugal. The Ducati Marlboro Team is prepared for a weekend at a track that is at once demanding and full of contrasts. Despite its having the lowest average speed of the series, the Estoril circuit also includes very fast sections, including one of the longest straightaways of the year and Turn 5, which is taken at approximately 200 km/h (124 mph).
The circuit, which winds through the hills seven kilometers from the Atlantic coast, is also known for its variable weather, which often makes track conditions different from one turn to the next.
Valentino Rossi has won five times in his eleven premier-class visits to the track, and he has finished on the podium on other five occasions, while the best result of his teammate Nicky Hayden is a fourth place in 2007.
VALENTINO ROSSI, Ducati Marlboro Team
“With the postponement of the Japanese GP, we’ve had three weekends without a race, so I was able to ‘unplug’ for a while following the GP12 test at Jerez, although I continued training to help my physical recovery. Now we go to Estoril, a track I quite like, where we’ll continue working on the GP11’s setup, particularly during the test on Monday. The conditions are often unpredictable at Estoril because the area is very windy and close to the ocean, making for variable weather, especially in the spring. Anyway, although we saw at Jerez that we’re already competitive in the wet, we’re hoping for sun in Portugal so that we can make the most of our time on the track. We still have to understand the bike better, and to work on the setup with the goal of being faster in the dry in time for the most intense phase of the season, when we’ll have six races in eight weeks starting in June.”
NICKY HAYDEN, Ducati Marlboro Team
“On to Portugal! We’ve had three weeks off, which seems like a long time, so I’m looking forward to getting back with the team. Estoril has some pretty tight, narrow places, but I’d say my favorite part is the fast kink on the back straightaway. Actually, we were just there in the fall, but the weekend was completely wet until the race. Hopefully it’s a little bit different this year, because it would be nice to get some dry time in as well. Now the season really gets rolling as we head into summer. I know the team’s been working hard, and I’m also looking forward to the test that we have on Monday after the race. I can’t wait to get back to the track and back on the bike. Hopefully we can go and get a good result.”
VITTORIANO GUARESCHI, Team Manager
“We’re back on the track after a long break, and with the post-race test, it will be a long weekend. For now, the weather forecast isn’t good, but we’ll see, because the conditions there change quickly. We hope for at least fair conditions throughout the weekend. We got a podium with Nicky at our last race, and we hope the result will help him find the feeling that he had last year when he had many nice races, including here at Estoril when he led for a while before a couple of small mistakes held him to fifth. Vale was fast and very competitive in Spain, especially considering that he hadn’t ever ridden the GP11 in the wet. Now the goal is to enable our riders to ride at a similar level in the dry.”
- Suzuki Preview
Rizla Suzuki’s Alvaro Bautista is targeting an amazing return to the MotoGP arena at this weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix, just 42 days after breaking his left femur.
Bautista has been undergoing intensive physiotherapy to make sure he is at a sufficient level of fitness to be able to take to the track on Friday – following a full medical to determine his ability to compete. If he is unable to ride at a competitive level, Rizla Suzuki will have Factory test rider Nobuatsu Aoki on stand-by to take over if he has to withdraw from the event – but Bautista’s clear target is to compete in the Grand Prix.
Rizla Suzuki's GSV-R will feature a new logo in Estoril – ‘Change and Challenge’ - which is used by Suzuki in the Asian regions to promote its new range of motorcycle products in these markets. Rizla Suzuki hopes to engage with the enthusiasm and passion of all MotoGP fans in these areas and it appreciates all the support of Bautista as he undertakes what is certainly a huge ‘challenge’ in his comeback from serious injury.
The Estoril circuit is a track of contrasts, where some fast corners in its 13-turn configuration mix with an almost kilometre-long straight and one of the slowest sections of the year. Situated on a rocky outcrop high above the towns of Estoril and Cascais, the circuit is only six kilometres from the Atlantic Ocean and this can give rise to some very changeable weather, a fact that was emphasised in 2010 when torrential rain caused the cancellation of the qualifying session.
Bautista plans to take to the track on Friday morning for the first of two free-practice sessions. Saturday will see a final practice in the morning, followed by an hour-long qualifying session in the afternoon where he aims to be qualifying for the best grid position he can obtain. Sunday’s race is round three of the 2011 MotoGP World Championship and the 28-lap race gets underway at 13.00hrs local time (12.00hrs GMT).
Álvaro Bautista: “I have been working very hard to be back in time for Estoril and I believe I will be able to take part in the race. I know it will be difficult, but I think the sooner I can get on the bike the more it will aid my total recovery and help my way to full fitness. I have travelled over 4,500km with many journeys to the hyperbaric chamber in Madrid to assist with my healing - I have been there so many times I could close my eyes and go without problems! I have now finished the rehabilitation phase and started on the physical preparation; this involves a lot of swimming, cycling and other fitness programmes to build up the strength so I can ride again. It is going to be really tough, but I am totally focused on being on the GSV-R in Portugal, it’s all I can think about at the moment and that is my first goal. After that we’ll see what happens and take everything one step at a time.”
- HRC Preview
The Honda MotoGP riders are ready to return to racing after the unexpected hiatus caused by the postponement of the April 17 Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi.
The Japanese round of the MotoGP World Championship was put on hold following the devastating tsunami and earthquake that hit the Sendai region of Japan. The race has been provisionally rescheduled for October.
Four weeks after the rain-plagued Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez de la Frontera the MotoGP World Championship resumes on the Estoril Circuit not far from the Atlantic coast northwest of the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, historically a setting of changing weather conditions.
The postponement had the unintended consequence of allowing Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) to have further surgery on the left collarbone that was damaged during practice for last October's Japanese Grand Prix. Pedrosa was operated on soon after a gutsy second place finish in difficult conditions in the first of his four home races at Jerez de la Frontera. With the operation more than three weeks ago, Pedrosa has been able to both rest and then begin the recovery process in advance of this weekend's race in Estoril.
Second in the MotoGP World Championship, Pedrosa heads to Estoril ready to race on a track where he's been on the podium two of the last three years. Though one of the slowest tracks on the calendar, the track presents a challenge to riders, with slow and fast corners, which require physical strength to negotiate. The race will certainly put Pedrosa's arm to the test.
Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC212V) is anxious to get back to racing after beating knocked down while running second to Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) on the eighth of 27 laps in Jerez. Stoner was on the move when Valentino Rossi (Ducati) slid off in the first turn, taking Stoner with him. Stoner tried to re-join the race, but wasn't able to get his Honda RC212V fired.
It was the lone black mark on what has been an impressive start to the season for Stoner, who began the year by dominating testing and followed it up with a brilliant victory in the season-opener under the lights in Qatar.
The third member of the Repsol Honda team, Andrea Dovizioso, would also like to forget about his Jerez weekend, when tyre and traction control problems ruined his race, and think about the future. The past has been good to Dovizioso in Portugal, with a win a two seconds in the 250cc class. Last year he won a tense battle for third to take his seventh podium of the 2010 season.
The rider Dovizioso narrowly defeated in last year's race in Estoril was Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V). Simoncelli made steady progress through his rookie MotoGP season, culminating in a fourth place-the gap to Dovi was .059s-in Estoril, his best finish of the season. Simoncelli continued the steep learning curve this year and was leading his first MotoGP race in Jerez when he crashed out of the lead on the 12th lap. The disappointment of the crash was tempered by the progress he and the team have made, and they want to continue that in Estoril, where "Super Sic" won the 250cc race in 2009.
Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) came within less than half a second of his first MotoGP podium in Jerez. The top Japanese rider proved his ability to negotiate difficult conditions while others fell by the wayside. Had the race run for one more lap, or even a few more corners, he certainly would have joined Pedrosa on the podium.
Toni Elias (LCR Honda MotoGP) returns to the scene of his greatest triumph. Elias made the 2006 MotoGP race an instant classic by holding off world champion Valentino Rossi by .002s, with former world champion Kenny Roberts Jr. a close third. The fourth rider on the lead second was two-time World Superbike champion Colin Edwards.
If there's a track where Elias hopes to regain that magic, this is it.
With Elias vacating his Moto2 World Championship, a few riders have been quick to fill the void. Andrea Iannone (Speed Master, Suter) hasn't let downfield qualifying efforts spoil his races. Sixteenth on the grid in Qatar, he finished second. Eleventh in Spain, he won the race.
Two other Moto2 riders have challenged Iannone's for the top spot in the class. Stefan Bradl (Viessmann Kiefer Racing, Kalex) had a shocking runaway win in the season-opener in Qatar. He followed it up with a fifth in Spain. Thomas Luthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2, Suter) has been a consistent third and second in the first two races, having qualified third in both Qatar and Jerez.
Estoril is a track of 4182m with 13 corners, nine rights and four lefts, with the longest straight of just under a kilometre. One of the slowest tracks of the year, the technical track demands compromises in chassis set-up, with a mix of fast and slow corners, which have different demands and makes the track less than an ideal circuit for MotoGP. The heavy acceleration out of the slow corners favors the Honda RC212V, but it also puts pressure on fuel consumption, though that hasn't been an issue with the Honda riders.
The track also has one of the best approaches to the finish line on the calendar. The looping Parabolica turn 13 right hander feeds onto the front straight, with the finish line far enough down the track to give riders a chance to make a dramatic draft-pass at the stripe.
Set near the Atlantic coast of Portugal, and only 28kms from Lisbon, the track suffers from the unpredictability of the weather and high winds that blow dust onto the track. It's a certainty that at some point wind and rain will sweep in off the ocean, but the uncertainty of the weather is what keeps the racing interesting and challenging and rewards the best prepared.
The first MotoGP race was held at Estoril in 2000, with this being the 12th running. Unlike some races, which are fixtures on the calendar, Estoril hasn't found a consistent date and runs in either the spring or fall. Last year's race was run on the final day of October. The year before it was early in October. In 2008 it was on April 13. Where it ends up in the future is anyone's guess.
Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa says: "I did what I had to do in these three weeks off and I look forward to get back on the bike after this period which has been good for me to undergo surgery and start rehabilitation. Last week I had the stitches removed, so everything is still very fresh and I don't know how I will feel in Estoril, but I'm excited to see if everything went well and if I can put the issues aside once on the bike. It would be very good because we had a good start to the season and I wish to compete in the best conditions. I want to make the most of the four practice sessions to prepare for the race. It would help if we have good weather, as this year we race in April, but you can never trust the weather there having the Atlantic Ocean so close. With regards to the circuit, Estoril has heavy braking zones and it will be important to find traction to take advantage of the good acceleration we have."
Repsol Honda rider Casey Stoner says: "I had a good rest in Switzerland and I feel very good at the moment. I'm looking forward to Portugal after a difficult last race in Jerez. We were looking for a good result in Spain after positive practice sessions and qualifying so we are happy to get back on track. Estoril is not one of my favourite tracks, but we have had good success there in the past. We will be looking to get back some points against (Jorge) Lorenzo as he has been the strongest there in the past three years. I think our bike should work quite well at this circuit as it has some tight turns with exits onto big straights so I hope to find some good traction in these points and be competitive from the first day."
Repsol Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso says: "I am looking forward to the race in Estoril, it's a track where I have had very good results in my career. I arrive motivated, and want to get back to form after the Jerez weekend with a good race and to show the results of all the positive work done with the team. I think that we will be competitive at Estoril. The circuit is very slow and it's not the best to ride with a MotoGP machine. In fact, one of the more difficult tasks is to manage the power of the RC212V on this slow track. We will have four practice sessions to work on the set-up and it's important to start well from the first day. After this long break, I'm happy to return on track. I have enjoyed this period at home with my family, having time to relax but also time to dedicate to training and to do the preparation of the coming races. Now it's time to jump on the bike".
San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Marco Simoncelli says: "I still have a bitter taste in my mouth from Jerez. I was having a great race and the crash obviously wasn't what I wanted, it was a real shame. I know I will have the chance to make up for it though, because I know I am fast and have a good feeling with a competitive bike. I have made progress and so has the team. We are getting on better and better and I am sure we will soon be celebrating together because everything is in place. It has been a long break and I have had time to go with my friends and 'finish off the ski season' before getting into some serious training ahead of Estoril. I had my best result of last season in Portugal and just missed out on the podium so this time I want to be on it. I like the track a lot; I won there in 250cc in 2009 and was on the podium the previous season. I am confident we can have a good weekend."
San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Hiroshi Aoyama says: "The result at Jerez was an important confidence boost for me. The conditions were particularly difficult, but I managed to keep things under control from lap to lap. My only regret is that I was a little too careful with my overtaking in the early stages of the race, otherwise I could have been on the podium, but overall I am happy. Apart from a crash in the dry we established a good feeling with the bike and that gives me high hopes for Estoril. I have stayed in Europe over the break and just trained hard for the next race. Estoril is not an easy circuit because of the unpredictable weather conditions. The wind is a real problem and unexpected rain showers can make things really difficult. Hopefully this weekend it stays nice."
LCR Honda MotoGP rider Toni Elias says: "Well, this break was a bit long and I am happy to be back on track, especially on this circuit where I have experienced an unforgettable victory in 2006. We had plenty of time to check the data and I am hoping to find a better set up in Portugal because I am eager to bounce back after a difficult beginning. I am bit worried about the weather. I would prefer a dry race, but the proximity to the ocean is always a gamble."
- Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Soft, Medium. Rear (asymmetric): Medium, Hard
The third round of the MotoGP World Championship takes the teams to the Estoril circuit for the Portuguese Grand Prix on 1 May. This year the date of the race has been brought forward from the October slot it has inhabited for the last two years and the teams and riders will be hoping for better weather after last year was hit heavily by rain.
The Grand Prix marks the first use this season of Bridgestone’s asymmetric rear slick tyres, which have been selected because of the imbalanced demands of the circuit. There are nine right-handed corners and only four lefts, and generally the right-handers are faster and generate higher loads, resulting in markedly higher tyre temperatures in the right shoulders of the tyres, especially the rears.
Estoril is a very varied circuit, mixing a top speed of over 325km/h along the main straight with heavy braking for the first corner, the very slow first gear chicane of turns nine and ten, and the long and fast final corner, Parabólica.
Owing to this variation in corner speeds and types, asymmetric rear slicks are essential in providing the riders with consistent levels of grip throughout a lap. The left shoulder of the rear tyres is subject to much lower loads and temperature so needs to be softer to offer good warm-up performance and grip from cold, whereas the right shoulder experiences high temperatures, especially as riders open the throttle out of Parabólica and onto the main straight, so is a harder compound rubber.
The softer option rear slicks use Bridgestone’s extra soft compound in the left shoulder and medium compound rubber in the right, and the harder option rears feature soft compound rubber in the left shoulder and the hard compound in the right. The temperature is expected to be higher than experienced in Estoril’s October date, but not significantly so as to make a difference to tyre selection. Exactly the same compound specifications have been chosen by Bridgestone as last year.
Hiroshi Yamada – Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Department
“It’s been four weeks since the Spanish GP because of the postponement of the Japanese GP from last weekend so everyone will be keen to go racing again. The disastrous events in Japan have not affected our MotoGP tyre supply though so there will be no problems in Portugal. This year the Portuguese GP has been moved from October but this change doesn’t make a significant difference from a tyre perspective, other than hopefully meaning less chance of rain! The conditions last year at Estoril were very difficult for the riders as the race was the first dry session of the whole weekend, almost exactly the inverse of the conditions we saw last time out at Jerez. Jorge has won this Grand Prix for the last three years so will be a strong force again this season, but after the action-packed last race in Spain there will be many riders looking to make amends and get more points under their belts. Our tyre compounds in Portugal are exactly the same as we selected for the race last year when feedback of our extra soft compound was very positive, so I am looking forward to another exciting race followed by a valuable post-race test on Monday.”
Hirohide Hamashima – Director, Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development
“Estoril features one of the highest top speeds of the season although has nearly the slowest average speed and its main challenge comes from the varied nature of the corners and the imbalance between right- and left-handers. The nature of the track changes from one corner to the next, and the tyres also have to contend with a surface change during the lap after partial resurfacing work conducted in 2006. The combination of fast and slow corners including the fast, long final corner and the very slow chicane demand the use of asymmetric rear slick tyres to balance the tyre temperature in each shoulder and provide consistent grip throughout the lap.
“It’s a slippery circuit so this demands softer compounds to generate grip and good warm-up performance in the left side of the tyres, but the fast and long right-hand corners necessitate harder compounds in the right shoulder of the rear slicks to cope with the increased temperature. The heavy braking points, especially into turn one, require a strong front tyre so we have to achieve a balance with our tyre selection.”
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