Practice Results

1 Marco Simoncelli Honda ITA 1’37.663
2 Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha ESP 1’37.724
3 Daniel Pedrosa Honda ESP 1’37.727
4 Valentino Rossi Ducati ITA 1’38.102
5 Casey Stoner Honda AUS 1’38.102
6 Colin Edwards Yamaha USA 1’38.203
7 Karel Abraham Ducati CZE 1’38.473
8 Ben Spies Yamaha USA 1’38.563
9 Nicky Hayden Ducati USA 1’38.596
10 Hector Barbera Ducati ESP 1’38.611
11 Hiroshi Aoyama Honda JPN 1’38.645
12 Andrea Dovizioso Honda ITA 1’38.658
13 Cal Crutchlow Yamaha GBR 1’38.760
14 Toni Elias Honda ESP 1’38.912
15 Loris Capirossi Ducati ITA 1’39.021

Simoncelli early leader in Portugal

San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Marco Simoncelli was quickest in both practice sessions at the bwin Grande Prémio de Portugal on Friday, as the World Championship resumed action.

The Italian lost the front end of his Honda going into Turn 3 midway through the second session so had to jump onto his second machine, but he was never headed. The 24 year-old won at this circuit back in 2009 in the former 250cc class and will be aiming for his maiden podium finish this weekend, after missing out on the opportunity at Jerez in the previous round.

The second session of the day – in the afternoon – was run in much hotter temperatures underneath the Portuguese sunshine. The MotoGP class just missed out on the rain which began to fall at the end of the 45-minute practice, and all 17 riders improved on their earlier times to end the day spread across 2.510s.

Reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing) who has won from pole position at Estoril for the previous three seasons was consistently quick throughout the day and finished with a deficit of just 0.061s to Simoncelli. The 23 year-old was 0.003s faster than his rival Dani Pedrosa in third. The Repsol Honda rider has yet to win in any category at this circuit and it is one of only four venues the Spaniard has been unable to achieve victory at.

Finishing on identical lap times of 1’38.102 were Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team) and Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda) after their much talked about coming together from the last race in Jerez. The Italian has had five wins here in the premier class, whilst the Australian is yet to take victory in the premier class at Estoril.

Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) was again solidly in the top ten, keen to put the disappointment of Jerez behind him. The American has had two fourth places here, in 2006 and 2008, which are his best results at this circuit. Rookie Karel Abraham (Cardion ab Motoracing) was seventh quickest, and the Czech rider finished in 10th place here last season in the Moto2 race.

Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing) has not had a happy time so far at this venue after crashing on the sighting lap in 2010. After a run off in first practice in the morning, the Yamaha rider was eighth fastest, 0.9s off Simoncelli’s best time.

The final two places in the top went to two Ducati machines. Ninth was Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team) who will be hoping to achieve the first win for Ducati at this circuit. Héctor Barberá (Mapfre Aspar Team), who had his best ever finish in MotoGP thanks to his sixth place in Jerez, was tenth quickest in FP2. The ten riders were covered by less than a second.

Making his return to action was Rizla Suzuki rider Álvaro Bautista, who completed both the practice sessions in his first MotoGP action since breaking his left femur in Qatar.

The Moto2 class experienced different fortunes with the weather, enjoying good conditions for the morning session but being affected by rain in the afternoon. Yuki Takahashi (Gresini Racing) topped the day’s times with a 1’42.202, closely followed by Tom Lüthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2) at 0.011s further back and Marc Márquez (Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol) who was 0.042s off the Japanese rider’s time.
Scott Redding (Marc VDS Racing) and Michele Pirro (Gresini Racing) were both in the top five, with Mika Kallio (Marc VDS Racing), Bradley Smith (Tech 3), Stefan Bradl (Viessmann Kiefer Racing), Andrea Iannone (Speed Master) and Alex de Angelis (JiR Moto2) all inside the top ten.

Thanks to the scheduled order of the sessions the 125cc riders escaped the rain along with the MotoGP class, and true to form it was Nico Terol leading the way. The Bankia Aspar rider’s best lap of 1’46.385 from the second session of the day topped the combined session times, placing him a substantial 0.708s ahead of Sandro Cortese (Intact Racing Team Germany).

The German was followed by Johann Zarco (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo) inside the top three, with Héctor Faubel (Bankia Aspar) and Portuguese rider Miguel Oliveira (Team Andalucía Banca Cívica) completing the top five.

– HRC Report

The Motorcycling World Championship resumed today its activity in Portugal after a 1-month break from the second race of the year. Four weeks that allowed Dani Pedrosa to undergo surgery on his shoulder and get back to the track with a great level, as he finished just 64 thousandths behind the fastest time of the day. Still with doubts about how his arm will respond during the weekend, the start of the Repsol rider was certainly positive. His team mates Casey Stoner and Andrea Dovizioso, who suffered some problems in those two sessions, finished fifth and twelfth, respectively.

In the first free practice session, Pedrosa had a good start and was soon among the fastest of the session. The Repsol rider did 19 laps and finished a little more than two tenths adrift Marco Simoncelli, who today dominated both sessions, and just 18 thousandths behind Casey Stoner, who was second, with Andrea Dovizioso sixth.

In the second practice session, Pedrosa was again very competitive and, after another 19 laps, set a time of 1 minute, 37 seconds and 727 thousandths, just 64 thousandths behind the best register of the day and only 3 behind the second fastest, Jorge Lorenzo. In fourth and fifth position finished Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner, both with exactly the same time, 439 thousandths behind Simoncelli. The Australian, who never hid his difficulties on this track, improved a tenth from the time set in the morning.
With twelve riders in the same second, Andrea Dovizioso closed this group, 995 thousandths behind the fastest time. The Repsol rider, who finished third in the race held last season in this setting, was delayed in this first day, focused on making the first adjustments to the set-up of his Repsol Honda RC212V to suit Estoril’s circuit features.

Apart from the competition, the three Repsol Honda Team riders collaborated yesterday with a campaign to support Japan developed by MotoGP in these difficult times for the Japanese country after the tragedy it suffered last march.

Dani Pedrosa
FP1 – 1:38.259, 19 laps, 79 km.
FP2 – 1:37.727, 19 laps, 79 km.
“I think the first day of practice has been positive, it’s the first race after a major operation so it’s only logical that I feel sore and I understand that with a little more time and treatment this will disappear. The pain I feel and some cramps are caused by tension I have in the shoulder area. The last round of laps this afternoon I wanted to extend a little longer to see how I felt, but I made seven laps in a row, which would be about 15 minutes, and this is not enough to make a definitive judgement. Also, if it rains tomorrow it will be important to have a positive practice to get a good position on the grid”.

Andrea Dovizioso
FP1 – 1:38.781, 19 laps, 79 km.
FP2 – 1:38.658, 22 laps, 92 km.
“Today I had two difficult practice sessions and I can’t be happy. I had no feeling with the front so we made several runs to test the modifications, but the situation in general didn’t improve in the afternoon and I struggled to make lap times. Today was dry and I hope tomorrow we can continue to work with the same conditions. According to the weather forecast, it should rain and this would complicate the situation”.

Casey Stoner
FP1 – 1:38.241, 17 laps, 71 km.
FP2 – 1:38.102, 15 laps, 63 km.
“To be honest I’m not very happy with how the day has gone, we had a few small issues with the bike that took quite a lot of time out of our sessions today. We could have had a much more productive day than we did as we didn’t really find any improvements, we have to wait for tomorrow and hope for some dry weather because at this moment we’re not too happy with the setting of the bike. We need to improve it a little under braking point and in the middle of the corner where we seem to be struggling to get the bike to turn so if there is some good weather tomorrow we should be able to improve the situation and not be so far”.

– Ducati Report

The rain that was forecast for the first day of practice at the Estoril Grand Prix arrived, but fortunately for the MotoGP riders, both sessions took place in dry conditions. After a nighttime shower, the weather granted a respite until shortly after the finish of the premier class’ 45 minute second free-practice session of the top class.

It was a good day for both Ducati Marlboro Team riders, with Valentino Rossi fourth and Nicky Hayden ninth, making progressive improvement from the morning to the afternoon. The Italian rider improved his time by approximately five tenths, while the American actually dropped a second and a half from his earlier time.

Valentino Rossi (Ducati Marlboro Team) 4th, 1:38.102
“I’m pretty satisfied with how the day went. Let’s start with my physical condition, which I’m very happy with: I was obviously aware of being a little better when I arrived here, but I wanted to wait until I tested my shoulder on the track, which confirmed that I’m able to ride well and have fun. It still hurts a little, and I’m missing a little strength, but the difference compared to my left shoulder is less. I can concentrate on riding the bike, and when watching myself on television, I can see that my style is starting to be a little more normal. Naturally, we’re also working on the bike. Today we used a different weight distribution and some changes to the electronics that worked well. For the first time, we went faster in the afternoon session than in the morning. We dropped almost half a second, getting us closer to the top. I still have some problems with rear grip, so tomorrow we have to do better, but I’m happy for now.”

Nicky Hayden (Ducati Marlboro Team) 9th, 1:38.596
“This morning was not a good session at all, but the afternoon was a lot better. We had a problem with one bike in FP1. I’m not sure what happened, but we’ll send the engine back to Bologna to check it out. I went back out at the end, but we used hard tyres because I didn’t want to waste another soft tyre, since it looks like it will be a soft-tyre race this weekend. Also, I had just gone out with a new setting, and since I only did about four corners, we got no information on that. We lost some valuable time, but this afternoon went better—not spectacular, but pretty steady. I was in the top ten for most of the session, and I had a decent feeling with the bike—I would say better than what the lap time shows. I’m sure everybody thinks they can do better tomorrow, but I feel like we can do a good job and try to get in a good lap in qualifying, which is going to be really important.”

– Yamaha Report

Yamaha Factory Racing riders Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies managed to avoid the rain today as the Portuguese GP got underway at Estoril. Lorenzo got down to business quickly in the first free practice as he looked to set up for his fourth consecutive win in Portugal. The afternoon’s second session saw him make a step forward, spending the majority of the 45 minute practice as one of only two riders to break under the 1’38 barrier. The reigning World Champion and current Championship leader completed the second heat in second place just 0.061 from first.

Today marked Texan rider Spies’ first opportunity to ride the Estoril circuit in the dry. With no race experience and no dry set up from last year the crew started with a base set up from Jerez in the morning. A number of set up changes followed and Spies also tried the harder Bridgestone tyre option in the afternoon session. The Yamaha Factory rider made steady improvements from morning to afternoon, finishing the day in eighth having improved on the morning session by 0.332 of a second.

Jorge Lorenzo
“It’s good to be back on track here, I really love riding at Estoril. We have to improve some sectors for Sunday, especially in braking. We lost some tenths in the first sector but we make up for it in the other three so we are up there in second. We are always in the top four which is important.”

Ben Spies
“It hasn’t been a perfect day; we’ve struggled a little bit. We tried to get a feel for the harder tyre this afternoon and don’t think that’s the right way for us. We tried some different settings through the sessions and we think we know what we need to do. We’re not close to the front but we’ll find our way up there. I’m pretty confident my guys and me can step up and be there, it’s in me and the bike so we’ll come back tomorrow and improve.

Wilco Zeelenberg – Yamaha Factory Racing Team Manager
“We’re quite lucky because it started to rain on the last lap of the second session. We’re happy we missed it because we had quite a few things to try today. This afternoon we focused on some new electronic settings for better grip. We’re not ready yet but we had positive comments from Jorge so we are satisfied with the position and lap time so far.”

Massimo Meregalli – Yamaha Factory Racing Team Director
“We worked to find a good, balanced set up today for Ben. It was his first day on a dry circuit here in Estoril so it was a learning experience. We’ve been working hard to make the bike as he wants it; we still have more to do as the set up is not as he would like it yet. Jorge did a really good long run; he definitely has the right rhythm and good pace and should make another step forward tomorrow.”

Edwards and Crutchlow return in style at Estoril
Colin Edwards and Cal Crutchlow made an impressively fast return to MotoGP action in Portugal today, the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team riders lapping consistently inside the top ten during the opening day of practice at the Estoril track.

Edwards ended with the sixth fastest time, the experienced American taking full advantage of unexpectedly dry and warm conditions to set a best time of 1.38.203 that put him less than 0.5s away from the top three.

Forecasts had predicted rain for the opening day of the Portuguese Grand Prix but both sessions took place on a full dry track with temperatures this afternoon nudging close to 25 degrees.

Edwards, who was fourth until the final moments of the second 45-minute session, made big progress in improving side grip with his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 machine having made swingarm set-up changes after he was seventh fastest this morning.

Rookie Crutchlow produced another fantastic performance that not only showcased his ability learn and master new tracks quickly, but the British rider also demonstrated his determination to ride at 100 per cent despite facing a gruelling physical test.

During the long break following the postponement of the Japanese Grand Prix, Crutchlow underwent surgery to solve a numbness issue in his right hand that occurred during the first two races in Qatar and Jerez. But Crutchlow was struck by a chronic arm pump issue again this morning and he needed a large build-up of fluid draining from his right arm in the Clinica Mobile ahead of the second session.

A modified handlebar position helped Crutchlow feel much more comfortable on his YZR-M1 machine this afternoon and he was unlucky not to finish inside the top seven after a brilliant performance.

He was as high as seventh in the final stages when he was unfortunate to be bumped down the order to 13th. He ended with a best time of 1.38.912 having knocked nearly 1.5s off from his best time from this morning and he was only 0.5s behind Edwards and marginally over a second away from the fastest pace set by Marco Simoncelli.

Colin Edwards
“That was a pretty good day and I’m really satisfied. We just rolled the bike off the truck and immediately I had a good feeling without having to make any changes. I’ve always gone well at this circuit and I’ve no idea why, but right out of the gate I felt comfortable on the bike and I was able to lap easily inside the top six for most of both sessions. This afternoon I never used the soft tyre and I probably lost a bit of time that would have put my further up the timesheets, but that’s not a big issue on Friday. We played with the balance of the bike this afternoon a little bit and tried something different with the swingarm that gave me better side grip with the hard tyre. I wanted to be open the throttle smoothly and generate some speed and we found a good direction, so I’m happy.”

Cal Crutchlow
“I’m really happy because to be only a second off the pace on a track I’ve never seen before gives me a lot of confidence. I honestly feel I should have kept that seventh place because I made a late change to the bike and everybody went quicker. I could have gone quicker once I was back on track but I encountered a lot of traffic and it was like a 125 session! I got held up and that cost me at least a couple of tenths, which would have easily put me in the top ten. This track is much harder to learn than Jerez. It is quite bumpy and you have to be so precise with your lines that it has been quite difficult. But I’m only 0.5s behind Colin and he has a good record at this track. After this morning I didn’t think I’d be so fast because I was really struggling with my arm. There was a massive build-up of fluid at the end of the session that I had to get drained and I’m not sure why it has happened. I rode a motocross bike last week without any drama, but the brake pressure on a MotoGP bike is incredible. We moved the handlebars out for this afternoon and it was definitely better and I felt more confident on the brakes, but at the end I’ve got another big fluid bump on my forearm.”

– Bridgestone Report

Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Soft, Medium. Rear (asymmetric): Medium, Hard

Whilst the weather forecast predicted rain all day, Estoril demonstrated how unpredictable its climate is and both MotoGP free practice sessions remained dry, although the rain came the moment the flag dropped on the premier class this afternoon. Overnight rain left the tarmac dirty and slippery however.

Marco Simoncelli finished the day fastest in both sessions, though it was very close at the front. After the second session, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa were second and third respectively, separated from Simoncelli by just 0.06seconds.

On the dry track, Bridgestone’s harder option front and softer asymmetric rear slicks were favoured today by almost all riders. The weather for the rest of the weekend is set to be just as unpredictable as today as rain can quickly blow in from the surrounding mountains, but the soft compound Bridgestone wets are ready and have been selected because Estoril is a particularly slippery circuit in the wet.

The final free practice session will run at 1010hrs local time tomorrow morning, and for now at least the forecast is for the rain that has now hit the circuit to remain.

Tohru Ubukata – General Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development Department
“Many of the teams said they hoped for dry running here in Estoril so they will have got a lot of valuable track time today. The times were good, but at 0.7seconds off the circuit lap record there is clearly more to come if tomorrow’s sessions are also dry. We know from past experience that the weather here is unpredictable so I am confident we have chosen the best tyres to cope with all situations we could encounter this weekend. After rain last night the circuit was still dirty for all of today and the circuit grip was low as a result. Also, without much direct sun tyre temperatures were a little lower so this is why almost all riders preferred the softer rear slick. But on the front, riders need good stability under heavy braking from high speed, over 300kmh, so this is why the harder front was favoured. Today was the first use this season of our asymmetric slicks and durability was good with Jorge and Valentino in particular each producing a string of consistent laps.”

– Suzuki Report

Rizla Suzuki’s Álvaro Bautista made an astonishing comeback to MotoGP action at Estoril in Portugal today just six weeks after breaking his left femur in Qatar.

Bautista (P17, 1’40.173, 40 laps) has made an amazing recovery to be fit enough to ride at this weekend’s event. The Spaniard showed a true racer’s courage around the 4,182m Portuguese circuit to complete today’s two sessions. After finishing the first free practice session this morning – with a time only three-hundredths-of-a-second behind his best lap-time from last year at Estoril – Bautista made a further step-up in his performance during the afternoon session. He finished the first day’s practice only two-and-a-half- seconds away from the quickest rider of the day – Marco Simoncelli on a Honda – and almost half-of-a-second inside his best time from 2010.

Bautista had no ill-effects from the serious injury he suffered last month and will rest his leg this evening after receiving some physiotherapy from the Clinica Mobile. He is eager to make sure that he is a fit as possible for tomorrow’s final free practice in the morning and the afternoon’s qualifying session and is in a good condition for Sunday.

Sunday’s 28-lap race is the third round of the MotoGP championship and the main event gets underway at 13.00hrs local time (12.00hrs GMT).

Álvaro Bautista: “I am very happy because I think that nobody expected that after little more than one month I would be able to jump on the bike and ride! When I broke my femur my target was to ride here and I worked very hard to make it happen. I did many kilometres every day between Talavera and Madrid, for my visits to the hyperbaric chamber and for the physiotherapy that I needed – now I can say that I am here and I am riding because of that! I am still not 100%, because I need some more power in my leg, but to be able to ride and get a feeling for the bike and the reference points around the track in my mind to be a MotoGP rider, I am certainly fit enough. I went one second faster this afternoon than I did this morning and my feeling on the bike was very similar, I was just a bit more confident so I could push more. I didn’t want to risk anything today, it was all about riding and getting a feeling – I didn’t want to push too hard to find that fast lap-time. I am improving every time I get on the bike so that makes things look good for the rest of the weekend. My leg is a bit stiff now so I will need to recover and get a bit of work on it this evening, but it recovered quickly after this morning’s session, so I don’t think that will be a problem. I think my body is also remembering how to ride a MotoGP bike as well as my mind is, so that is a very positive thing.

“I want to say a big thank-you to all the team for all the confidence they have shown in me. They all know that it is difficult for me to get to my maximum level, but they have given me their full support – so thanks to all of them for that.”

Paul Denning – Team Manager: “Performance is usually only measured by lap-time and position, but today’s performance by Álvaro rates amongst the best we’ve seen at Rizla Suzuki over the last few years. The effort and commitment that he has made to get his body into a good enough condition to ride a Grand Prix bike in such a short time is simply outstanding – he needs to be applauded for his bravery! We didn’t use the softer rear tyre this afternoon, which was undoubtedly the one needed to improve the lap-time, because Álvaro simply concentrated on getting the feeling back and recovering his confidence – we have to remember that the last time he was on the bike was not a particularly pleasant experience! The decision to ride this weekend was wholly Álvaro’s and so far it has proven to be the right one. Today was the first step in his recovery back to a competitive level.”

– Red Bull Rookies

With water still streaming across the track Brad Binder snatched pole position on the final lap of a dramatic qualifying for Saturday’s first Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup race of the Portuguese Grand Prix weekend in Estoril. The 15 year old South African is joined on the front row by 14 year old Italian Lorenzo Baldassarri and 14 year old Portuguese Ivo Lopes.

The first qualifying session was halted after just a few minutes when a thunderstorm hit the circuit and a lightning bolt struck the track just 2 metres from 16 year old Austrian Deni Cudic. He crashed and was knocked unconscious. He regained consciousness but was taken to hospital in Lisbon for further checks. Just whether his loss of consciousness was caused by the lightning or the crash is unclear but riders close to him on the track were also affected. “I blacked out for a moment and then I was off the track,” explained 15 year old Australian Arthur Sissis. 17 year old Czech Tomas Vavrous had a similar experience. “I don’t know what happened but suddenly I was off the track. The onboard camera on the Australian’s bike was also knocked out by the lightning.

The torrential rain and loss of power to the track communications meant that the session could not continue even as the lightning moved away. The second qualifying session was then run over and hour later, still on a very wet track but with no real threat of further lightning.

There were still a large number of fallers but no injuries. German 13 year old Willi Albert headed the timing monitors for much of the session but then slid off in the chicane. “I got into the corner actually going too slowly and off line. The back slid round and I had a very small crash. Unfortunately the marshal who was helping with the bike wrecked the seat so that was the end of my session,” he explained, finally ending up with 6th place on the grid.

With the water clearing the pace got quicker and Sissis was the man on the move taking pole with 9 minutes to go. He went quicker and quicker until he overdid it with 2 of the 30 minutes remaining. “I felt good, by the end there was not too much water on the track, I knew it was pushing the limit. I got into one corner a bit too hot and the next one I fell.”

In those last 2 minutes he went from 1.3 sec faster than anyone to the second row of the grid as Baldassarri took pole with 30 seconds to go and Lopes pushed himself to 2nd. Binder had the answer though. “I was struggling early on, there was a lot of water running across the track and it was difficult. Towards the end it really improved and with about 2 laps to go I saw I was in about third so I thought it must be close and I should go for it. It just worked out and it’s great to be on pole again,” he concluded as he matched his Jerez performance.

Binder lies 4th in the points table after a win and a fall in Spain. Cup leader Philipp Oettl is missing this weekend as he recovers from a broken collarbone sustained in a practice crash on German Championship bike so Binder, Sissis and a number of other riders could well snatch the Cup lead from the 14 year old German.

Combined Qualifying Classification
1. Brad Binder (RSA) 2 minutes 07.768 seconds
2. Lorenzo Baldassarri (ITA) +0.316
3. Ivo Lopes (POR) +0.690
4. Arthur Sissis (AUS) +1.246
5. Joakim Niemi (FIN) +2.400
6. Willi Albert (GER) +2.561
7. Alan Techer (FRA) +3.441
8. James Flitcroft (GBR) +4.271
9. Josep Garcia (ESP) +4.502
10. Andrea Migno (ITA) +4.774

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