MotoGP Estoril Race Results & Report: Pedrosa Wins in Portugal After Canny Stalking of Lorenzo

What Happens When It’s Only the Leader at the End That Matters

8:52am EST — Dani Pedrosa won the 2011 Grand Prix of Portugal after spending nearly the entire race in second, behind second-place finisher Jorge Lorenzo. The two set a punishing pace over the rest of the field, in a race marked by drama at the beginning and end. Marco Simoncelli and Hector Barbera crashed out on the first lap, with Karel Abraham joining them on the second. Ben Spies also crashed out after spending his race with an apparent lack of grip. It was nearly the end when Pedrosa finally took the lead from Lorenzo, striking into the first turn and not looking back. It was the end when Andrea Dovizioso took fourth from Valentino Rossi across the line.

Lorenzo started on pole, with rival Simoncelli starting next to him after leading much of Saturday’s qualifying session and crashing in the final minutes. The two had it out in the post-session press conference, as Lorenzo has been complaining about the Italian’s riding style. Pedrosa took the final front row starting position on his final qualifying lap, beating out teammate Stoner, who started fourth. Spies and Dovizioso completed the second row, while Rossi’s improvements did not continue for qualifying. He and teammate Hayden managed only ninth and thirteenth, respectively. It was a dry qualifying session, but the morning warm-up on race day was wet, leaving Edwards on top of the timesheets. Stoner, Rossi, Hayden, and Simoncelli completed the fastest five.

It was a sunny Sunday as the lights went out, with Lorenzo leading into the first turn, with Pedrosa close behind. Simoncelli had a moment leaving the turn, right with Stoner and Dovizioso. Just a few turns later, Simoncelli was out, with Barbera right behind with his own massive highside. Simoncelli’s had him spiraling through the air like a large, furry ballerina. Bother were down, but got gingerly up after a few moments. Simoncelli was directly in front of Stoner, but the Australian continued on. At the end of the first lap, Lorenzo led Pedrosa, Stoner, Rossi, Dovizioso, Spies, Capirossi, Edwards, Hayden, and Crutchlow. Abrham was the next out, soon assisted to the barried by marshals whilst holding his wrist. Continue reading

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MotoGP Estoril Quali Results & Report: Lorenzo Wins Pole, Simoncelli to Start 2nd Despite Crash

What Happens When Binning It Can Keep One From a 1st Pole Position

10:12am EST — Jorge Lorenzo won pole for the 2011 Portuguese Grand Prix in a session that started under threatening clouds, but was marked instead by Marco Simoncelli’s dominance. The Italian, who will start Sunday’s race second, spent two thirds of the session leading by well over a half second. Lorenzo fought back in the closing minutes and took provisional pole, solidifying his position as Simoncelli lost the front end whilst on a hot lap with just a couple minutes to go. Dani Pedrosa took the final front row starting position after the flag, leaving teammate Casey Stoner to head the second row. Ben Spies and third Repsol Honda teammate Andrea Dovizioso complete that row. Despite quicker times during practices, the factory Ducati team continues to drift back, with Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden qualifying only ninth and thirteenth, respectively.

Simoncelli led both dry Friday practice sessions, ahead of Stoner, Pedrosa, Lorenzo, and Rossi as the top five in the morning, then Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Rossi, and Stoner in the afternoon. Saturday morning was a wet/dry session, with intermittent rain in Portugal. Capirossi was quickest in the slower conditions, followed by Lorenzo, Hayden, Rossi, and Stoner as the fastest five. Alvaro Bautista did ride during the Friday sessions, about a month and a half after shattering his femur, and planned to race. The Stoner/Rossi anger continued from Jerez, with Stoner still cheeky, but Rossi regaining some of his usual verve after quick sessions and a stronger shoulder on Friday.

Most of the riders were out quickly with the threatening rain, hoping to set a quick time early in the session. Lorenzo was the very early leader with a 1:41.986, five minutes into the hour long session, followed by Cal Crutchlow, Toni Elias and Pedrosa, all on their first flying laps. Of course, times quickly dropped as riders circulated more, though the track still had damp patches after rain during the morning practice. Ten minutes into the session, Simoncelli (1:38.647) led Stoner, Lorenzo, Crutchlow, Spies, Pedrosa, Dovizioso, Hector Barbera, Colin Edwards, Karel Abraham, and Rossi eleventh.

Pedrosa was quickest next, only to have Simoncelli retake the provisional pole by .008s. Meanwhile, the still-recovering Bautista was fourteenth, nearly 1.7 seconds faster than slowest rider Loris Capirossi. Simoncelli led Pedrosa, Lorenzo, Dovizioso, and Edwards twenty minutes in, with Stoner taking a hard position on Hayden and giving the (possibly the wrong) Ducati no room. Simoncelli continued to improve his time, soon extending his gap over Pedrosa to nearly three tenths as the halfway point of the session approached. Continue reading

MotoGP Estoril Race Results & Report: Lorenzo Wins Portuguese GP Marked By Actual Racing

What Happens When Scrappy is a Race Mission

9:50am EST — Jorge Lorenzo won the 2010 Portuguese Grand Prix from pole, though it was not that simple.  He lost the lead on the first lap to fifth-place finisher Nicky Hayden, then to second-place finisher Valentino Rossi, who held the lead through the early half of the race.  The two teammates fought over first, with Lorenzo coming back form a two second gap to dominate and win by over eight seconds.  Andrea Dovizioso finished a hard-won third, fighting with fourth-place finisher Marco Simoncelli and Hayden, with teammate Dani Pedrosa in the mid-pack fighting until his injury tired him.  Casey Stoner crashed out in the first third fo the race while Ben Spies did not start, dislocating his left ankle on an installation lap crash.

Rain was the story at Estoril, washing out the first practice, lengthening the third, and forcing a cancellation of qualifying.  Rather than the usual hour of running, the torrential rain forced a delay, then a complete cancellation of all qualifying on Saturday a half hour after MotoGP qualifying should have started.  Instead, the starting grid was decided by the combined practice times, putting Lorenzo, Hayden, and Rossi onto the front row for the second to last round of the MotoGP season, at Estoril.  Both Pedrosa and Capirossi, out recently due to injuries, practiced and are likely to race Sunday.  Checa has replaced Kallio for the final two rounds of the season at Pramac Ducati.  In the morning warm-up, Rossi led Stoner, Lorenzo, Spies, and Simoncelli as the fastest five as conditions were damp, but not actively raining, though wind continued to buffet the circuit during the warm-up.  Spies went down on the sighting lap, with reports saying that he was first sitting down, then conscious but taken away on a stretcher.  He did not return to the pit lane on time, keeping him from his fifth place start (middle of row two). He was also taken to the medical center and declared unfit to race, as he had dislocated his left ankle.

The sun was actually shining as the lights went out, with Lorenzo keeping the lead as Hayden got off slowly.  Dovizioso had an amazing start, going to second from seventh.  Hayden was third, Rossi fourth, and de Puniet fifth.  Hayden slid under Dovizioso for second while further back Edwards pushed through on Simoncelli.  Espargaro was the first man out, limping and helped of the track by marshals.  Hayden attacked Lorenzo for the lead and took it, pulling a tiny gap immediately on all soft tires.  Rossi went through on Dovi, who ran wide and lost position to Stoner.  He then slid under for second, then losing position the whole way back to fifth.  Meanwhile, Lorenzo was back in front of Hayden, who then lost second to Rossi.  Stoner went around Dovizioso for fourth as the top five continually swapped position. Rossi took the lead from Lorenzo on L4 through the uphill chicane with Stoner close behind, then Hayden.  Continue reading

MotoGP Estoril Quali Results: Rain Forced Cancellation Puts Lorenzo on Pole

What Happens When It Rains, Not in Spain, but in Protugal

9:29am EST — Rain was the story at Estoril, washing out the first practice for the 2010 Portuguese Grand Prix, lengthening the third, and forcing a cancellation of qualifying.  Rather than the usual hour of running, the torrential rain forced a delay, then a complete cancellation of all qualifying a half hour after MotoGP qualifying should have started.  Instead, the starting grid was decided by the combined practice times, putting Jorge Lorenzo, Nicky Hayden, and Valentino Rossi onto the front row for the second to last round of the MotoGP season, at Estoril.  Both Dani Pedrosa and Loris Capirossi, out recently due to injuries, practiced and are likely to race Sunday.  Carlos Checa has replaced Mika Kallio for the final two rounds of the season at Pramac Ducati.

Starting Grid for the 2010 Portuguese Grand Prix (determined by combined practice times):
1. Lorenzo 1:48.522
2. Hayden 1:48.657
3. Rossi 1:48.657
4. Stoner 1:49.061
5. Spies 1:49.721
6. Melandri 1:49.784
7. Dovizioso 1:50.007
8. de Puniet 1:50.043
9. Edwards 1:50.313
10. Simoncelli 1:50.500
11. Espargaro 1:50.787
12. Pedrosa 1:50.824
13. Capirossi 1:51.518
14. Bautista 1:52.734
15. Barbera 1:53.131
16. Aoyama 1:53.317
17. Checa 1:53.933

MotoGP Estoril Qualifying: Lorenzo on Pole, Rossi and Stoner Just Behind

What Happens When Everything Looks the Same

11:10am EST — The starting row will look familiar this weekend for the MotoGP round as Estoril.  Jorge Lorenzo leads teammate Valentino Rossi for his fifth pole of the season, from which he has not won.  Casey Stoner’s return put him in third, a good start from the still-weakened Australian.

Provisional Starting Grid for the Portuguese GP: (courtesy of Crash.net)

1. Lorenzo 1:36.214
2. Rossi 1:36.474
3. Stoner 1:36.528
4. Pedrosa 1:36.702
5. Edwards 1:37.142
6. de Puniet 1:37.448
7. Capirossi 1:37.489
8. Dovizioso 1:37.541
9. Hayden 1:37.654
10. Kallio 1:37.813
11. de Angelis 1:37.822
12. Toseland 1:37.823
13. Elias 1:37.911
14. Canepa 1:38.042
15. Vermeulen 1:38.342
16. Melandri 1:38.538
17. Talmacsi 1:39.320

Casey Stoner Returns to MotoGP: Reading Between the Lines

What Happens When a Rider Brings Injury to Himself

12:37pm EST — While much of the MotoGP world has been buzzing about the official confirmation from the Ducati team that Casey Stoner is returning to the grid after a two-month, three-race recovery period from a previously unidentified fatiguing illness, it is important to read between the lines of the cautiously optimistic release.  Instead of the much bandied-about Epstein-Barr virus, a Catalan stomach flu, an infection, or a neurological, cardiovascular, or respiratory illness, Stoner was suffering from over-training and under-eating.  He had “low blood pressure levels and a lack of sodium” caused by over-training and “the after-effects of injuries and surgeries over the last few years.”  Further, the recovery period allowed Stoner return to “better physical shape than he was in July and his weight is back up to 60kg, which is close to his ideal weight.”  This low weight and lack of salt were the cause of his fatigue.

According to all the doctors mentioned in the press release, and there were quite a few, the “suggestion to stop Casey from racing at the end of July was absolutely necessary in order to avoid aggravating his physical debilitation.”  In other words, were he to have continued racing, Stoner would have continued to over-work his body, resulting in lower blood pressure and sodium levels and continued and worsening fatigue exacerbated by his training regimes and low body weight.  The dedication that has made him a great motorcycle racer was wrecking havoc on his physical strength.

While the release is clear that Stoner is not fully recovered, nor is he at full race strength, it suggests that a turn-around has occurred.  He will be “under medical supervision throughout, with a new sodium-rich diet aimed at raising his blood pressure and muscular functionality.”  The team, and MotoGP, welcome world champion Stoner back to the grid this weekend at Estoril.

Weekend Preview: Suzuka, Estoril, and Magny-Cours Bring the Championships to the Wire

What Happens When a Weekend Isn’t Just a Weekend

11:28am EST — This weekend sees the top flights of car and motorcycle racing dueling it out amongst themselves for end-of season bragging rights, championships, and contracts for 2010.  Formula1 comes off a night race in Singapore just this past week, and only scoring five points more than Brawn teammate Rubens Barrichello at Suzuka in Japan will grant Jenson Button his first driver’s championship.  MotoGP is in Portugal after a month-long vacation for the field, and an even longer one for ill Casey Stoner.  The fight for the championship is again between teammates, with Valentino Rossi leading Jorge Lorenzo by thirty points with four races and a month of competition left in the season.  It looks as though no one can catch the two Yamaha riders.  World Superbike sees Noriyuki Haga again leading the championship, but only by three points over WSBK rookie (and decidedly not his teammate) Ben Spies.  Haga’s factory Ducati teammate Michel Fabrizio is mathematically alive in the championship after winning the second race at Imola Sunday.

Formula1 at Suzuka, Japan — With three races left in the season, including this one, Formula1 is bringing a most interesting championship race down to the wire.  At the start of the season, it looked as though Jenson Button and BrawnGP would run away with the championship after dominant results for the team that did not formally exist until this year.  Mid-season temperature issues and development by other teams saw Brawn slide backwards in race results until Rubens Barrichello took over his teammate’s winning ways.  Singapore saw more unhappy qualifying and results, with the only consolation for Brawn being that title rivals Red Bull did not fare much better.  McLaren has returned to its usual fast ways, and Fernando Alonso for Renault (who won Suzuka last year just after his now-tainted win in Singapore 2008) will be looking to repeat success in Japan after a 2009 podium Sunday.  Despite the many calculations and inherent luck that could bring the championship to Brazil or Abu Dhabi, Button need only score five more points than Barrichello to clinch the driver’s championship.  While it is now an accepted fact that the Alonso-Ferrari move will be announced Thursday, much of the rest of the field is driving for a contract next season, including Button and Barrichello.  Expect some daring moves and hard charges that may have been non-existent for much of the season from drivers looking for more money or any contract at all.

MotoGP at Estoril, Portugal — While MotoGP has four races left in the season, including this one, the championship has a bit longer to play out with more points available per race than F1.  Valentino Rossi has a thirty point lead over teammate Jorge Lorenzo, but again has Casey Stoner to play defense with the rest of the field.  Stoner is scheduled to make a return after a three-race, two month recovery in Australia after being sidelined by an undiagnosed illness that left him weak and unable to perform. His presence on the grid had given Rossi a bit of a buffer, and a challenge, that might have kept Lorenzo further behind.  The 2010 MotoGP grid is pretty well organized, saving a few satellite rides like Ben Spies’ projected move from WSBK to James Toseland’s seat at Tech 3 Yamaha.  It is the 250cc championship that is closer, with the top four within forty-seven points (Hiroshi Aoyama: 205; Alvaro Bautista: 192 -13; Marco Simoncelli: 165 -50; and Hector Barbera: 158 -47) of each other.  Simoncelli (reigning 250 champion) and Barbera will be in the premier class in 2010, and are generally considered to be out of the title hunt.  The close racing that has been a hallmark of this season will continue at Estoril.

WorldSBK at Magny-Cours, France — The WorldSBK championship is the one of these three that will likely last the longest (even as the season ends sooner than either F1 or MotoGP), with Noriyuki Haga only having a three point lead over Ben Spies with two rounds and four races to go.  Haga and Spies have been trading the championship lead between them for the entire season, but should keep a weather eye behind them for Haga’s teammate Fabrizio.  Sixty-one points behind Haga, Fabrizio won the last race, indicating that there are no team orders in the Ducati camp, and leaving the front-runners vulnerable, especially with the improved pace of Aprilia in the hands of former champion Max Biaggi.  With Spies regularly finishing at the top or bottom of the standings, Fabrizio could sneak in and take second, if not win the championship.  Adding Johnny Rea and Biaggi to the mix, both very willing to win or take valuable points in the championship, the last two rounds of the season will be close indeed.  Also important to remember is Spies’ rumored move to MotoGP in 2010, his clear desire for the championship in his rookie WSBK season, and those fighting around him to take his open WSBK factory Yamaha seat for next season.

This coming weekend will likely (hopefully) be filled with close racing and exciting championship battles.  Brew some coffee, crack open the beer, and stay up late for whatever coverage is available of F1 in Japan, MotoGP in Portugal, and WSBK in France on Sunday.