MotoGP 2011 Estoril Results

Dani Pedrosa shocks Jorge Lorenzo and the world in Portugal

Conventional wisdom suggested that a duel today between Yamaha Alpha Male Jorge Lorenzo and Repsol Honda’s Little Big Man, Dani Pedrosa, would end with Lorenzo posing in some goofy post-race celebration and Pedrosa sulking in his garage muttering about his shoulder. Instead, with four laps to go, Pedrosa went through his rival and compatriot, put the twist on the wrist and never looked back, winning the bwin Grande Premio de Portugal in an impressive display of skill, courage and patience.

On a sunny, cool Sunday on the Portuguese Riviera, reigning world champion Lorenzo started from the pole for the fourth consecutive year. He could be forgiven for feeling a little overconfident, coming off a convincing win at Jerez and having been competitive in practice all weekend. Plus, his main rivals, all riding Hondas, had their own issues. Repsol’s Casey Stoner was having front end problems, Marco Simoncelli had crashed his satellite Honda twice, and Pedrosa was coming off a non-trivial surgery on his shoulder and hadn’t put in more than seven or eight laps at a time since Jerez.

MotoGP 2011 Estoril Dani Pedrosa

Texas Hold ’Em at 160 MPH

MotoGP 2011 Estoril podiumThe British race announcers referred to today’s race as a game of high-speed poker, and that’s pretty much how it played out. For the first 24 laps, Pedrosa held his cards to his vest, dogging, drafting and irritating Lorenzo, always on his rear wheel, turning identical lap times. Lorenzo’s strategy must have included wearing Pedrosa down over time, allowing his injured shoulder to cause him problems later in the race the way it had in Qatar and Jerez. Pedrosa’s strategy, apparently, was to have adrenaline block out the pain in his shoulder and go through on Lorenzo at Turn One sometime before the finish.

By Lap 25 it was game on. This was the moment The Man to Beat, Lorenzo, expected Little Big Man, the prohibitive underdog, to fold, break, and settle for second place, not a bad day coming off a workmen’s comp claim. Instead, Pedrosa threw down his cards face up and went all in. He went through easily on Lorenzo (at Turn One) while turning a 1’38.2, then proceeded to lay down a 1’37.8, a 1’37.6, and a 1’38.5 to win by three seconds. In beating The Man to Beat, he has become, well, The Man to Beat.

Simoncelli Reaps What He Sows. Again.

The discovery that he is lightning quick this year has apparently come as some surprise to Marco Simoncelli, reporting to the estimable Fausto Gresini. In the run-up to Jerez, he found himself in Alien territory, practicing near the top of the charts and actually crashing out of the lead on race day. In Portugal, he led the first two FPs and qualified second on Saturday, despite having crashed on both days. At Saturday’s press conference, Lorenzo and Simoncelli got into a rather pissy exchange over Simoncelli’s aggressive (read “reckless”) racing style. Simoncelli met the criticism with some of his own, proving beyond a doubt that he has più palle che cervello. A satellite sophomore offering riding and etiquette advice to the reigning world champion – charming, Marco, I’m sure. Awesome.

The world exacted a bit of revenge for this poor behavior on Lap One Sunday, as Simoncelli had a BIG ol’ ragdoll highside, ending his day shaken, not stirred. After the race, he was unbowed, refusing to back away from his earlier comments. We’ll be watching in France to see if he dials back his aggression. In racing, they call a 120 MPH curve a “120 MPH curve” for a reason. Any slower, you lose the race; any quicker, you crash. Simoncelli had the first part. Now, perhaps, he has the second.

Elsewhere on the Grid

Casey Stoner earned 16 points today without breaking a sweat, starting fourth and finishing third, all by his lonesome. He had a major moment on Lap One but made it to the procession in time to podium … Valentino Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso held a day-long duel for fourth place, mimicking Lorenzo and Pedrosa. In a virtual replay of what he did here last year to Simoncelli, Dovizioso waited until the last turn in the race to steal points from his boyhood idol Valentino Rossi, punking him by 25/1000ths of a second. Bravo, Andrea.

MotoGP 2011 Estoril Ben Spies

Lorenzo’s Yamaha teammate Ben Spies was all over the lot today, going walkabout twice and running up on Nicky Hayden’s back end before leaving the premises for good on Lap 13. The team later said a tool used to block the fuel overflow pipe was inadvertently left on Spies’ M1, interfering with his front brake lever action … Colin Edwards looked like the 2010 version of himself today, moseying around all alone in 6th position, not a care in the world. Teammate Cal Crutchlow, coming off surgery for arm pump and getting his arm drained all weekend, started and finished eighth, continuing to overachieve … Hiro Aoyama, playing the Japanese tortoise to Simoncelli’s Italian hair hare on the Gresini team, finished seventh today, and is the top satellite rider on the grid year to date.

MotoGP 2011 Estoril Results

Karel Abraham came back to Earth today, crashing out early in the day after impressive outings the first two rounds … The biggest news around these parts is that Randy de Puniet, pointless all season, not only bagged six championship ducats today on his Pramac Ducati but finished ahead of his qualifying position for, like, the third time in two seasons. That’s huge for my boy Randy. Bien fait!

The Big Picture

With two weeks until Round Four at Le Mans, the world championship plot has thickened. Lorenzo now leads Pedrosa by a scant four points; Little Big Man appears to have the faster machine and the cosmic momentum. Stoner sits in third, trailing the Spaniard by twenty points, constantly complaining about one thing or another. Rossi, Hayden and Dovizioso are in a virtual tie for fourth, with Hayden appearing to be the weakest of the three. Crutchlow, Edwards and (a possibly injured Hector) Barbera round out the top ten.

MotoGP 2011 Estoril Valentino Rossi

From the ridiculous to the sublime: Loris Capirossi had the fastest time in FP3, running in the rain. When was the last time Capirex finished at the top of anything? And 16 “teams” expressed an interest in fielding entries in the 2012 grid, when the premier class reverts to 1000cc engines. Of these, 14 were awarded “further information” packets by the racing gods at Dorna. And of those 14, I’m thinking perhaps three or four will actually put riders on seats next season.

Better than nothing, I guess. On to France!

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