MotoGP 2010 Estoril Preview

Rossi and Stoner in hot pursuit of Pedrosa

MotoGP correspondent Bruce Allen previews the Estril round of the 2010 season. Check back on Monday for the full report of the Portuguese Grand Prix.

This weekend’s Grande Premio de Portugal, brought to you by the same delightful online bookies that sponsored Round Two at Jerez in May, has significant implications for several of The Aliens. Jorge Lorenzo, with nothing on the line, has won the last two races here, and figures to be at or near the top of the chart again this week, if only for the pure hell of it. Teammate Valentino Rossi and lame duck Ducati ace Casey Stoner, on the other hand, have plenty to race for. And Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa will need a superhuman effort to maintain his tenuous grip on second place.

Let’s review. With two rounds remaining in the 2010 season and Lorenzo having clinched, Pedrosa boasts 228 points, followed by Stoner with 205 and Rossi’s 197. A top ten finish by Pedrosa in Portugal would be a significant accomplishment, and would put him in the neighborhood of 235 points. Rossi, whose recent history here includes a leisurely fourth last year and a mildly disappointing third in 2008, needs to beat Stoner on Sunday to have a shot at second place for the season. Meanwhile, the Australian, who finished second here last year and sixth in 2008, is on a roll, having won three of the last four rounds.

Casey Stoner is a victory away from tying Wayne Rainey on the all-time MotoGP/500cc GP wins list with 24.

In a perfect world, this week’s contest would see Rossi and Stoner going hard at one another, the once and future Ducati stars fighting tooth and nail in a rare meaningful late-season grudge match. Rossi is probably hoping for something along the lines of Laguna Seca in 2008, when he forced Stoner into a late low-side and won going away. Stoner would undoubtedly prefer something more like this year’s Japanese Grand Prix, when he ran away from Rossi and abandoned him to a breathtaking throw-down with Lorenzo and an eventual third place finish. Stoner can dismiss Rossi with a win at Estoril, setting up an exciting face-off with Pedrosa at Valencia next week. Rossi, with a win and a poor outing from Stoner, can hope for a three way battle in the season finale. In unfamiliar territory as the underdog, it will be interesting to see how Rossi responds; I expect another vintage performance from the nine-time world champion.

Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner continue their rivalry in a bid for second overall.

The (Latest) Provisional 2011 Grid

Speculation has abounded this summer about the composition of the satellite teams for next season. With the notable exception of the Rizla Suzuki team, the lineups at the factory teams became clear back in August, and the new look will be a radical departure from what we’ve become used to in the recent past. The Yamaha factory team will feature Jorge Lorenzo, backed up by Ben Spies, and probably not sponsored by Fiat. The Ducati entry will headline the inimitable Valentino Rossi with Nicky Hayden returning as the warm-up act, perhaps sponsored by Fiat. Repsol Honda will bring a very unstable three man outfit, with Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa grappling for the top spot, and Andrea Dovizioso bringing up the rear.

Alvaro Bautista may find it lonely next year as the only Suzuki rider on the MotoGP grid.

Rizla Suzuki, the poor relations of the factory teams, will return one bike next year, with Alvaro Bautista aboard. According to several industry sources, the remainder of the grid will include:

  • Randy de Puniet and Loris Capirossi jockeying Ducatis for Pramac Racing;
  • Colin Edwards and rookie Cal Crutchlow on the Tech 3 Yamahas;
  • Marco Simoncelli and Hiro Aoyama battling for Fausto Gresini’s Honda team;
  • Defending Moto2 champion Toni Elias returning to the premier class on the LCR Honda;
  • Hector Barbera wrestling the Paginas Amarillas Aspar Ducati; and, bringing up the rear,
  • Karel Abraham pedaling the Cardion AB Racing Ducati.

For those of you keeping score at home, the 17-bike grid will be comprised of four Yamahas, six Hondas, six Ducatis and one lonely Suzuki. Seriously, can 2012 get here soon enough?

Thank Goodness, Carlos Checa is Back?

Mika Kallio and Pramac Racing have finally parted company, after an entirely disappointing season. The Floundering Finn’s results in the ten races in which he failed to crash out included an encouraging seventh at Jerez in May and another top ten at Laguna Seca. Otherwise, he ran dead last or close to it all year long. Moreover, the injuries cited as the reason for his early retirement without a pension – read getting canned – were the result of his six crashes. His descent from 2009 Rookie of the Year to having to scramble for a Moto2 ride next season has been difficult to watch.

Speaking of difficult to watch, I’m not exactly cheering wildly over Pramac’s choice of Carlos Checa for the last two races of the year. His departure from the premier class after miserable 2006 and 2007 seasons seemed eminently well-timed. And three fairly productive seasons in WSB are supposed to enhance his MotoGP expectations how? (-Ed. Then again, Kevin Duke will argue from first-hand experience at a recent press test for the Ducati 848 EVO at Imola that the veteran racer can still throw it sideways with the best of them!)

Kevin Duke (right) recently got the chance to ride with Carlos Checa at a press event for the Ducati 848 EVO.

Look for Carlos and a thoroughly banged up Loris Capirossi to fight over the last spot on the grid for these last two rounds. Old balls – mmmmmm.

Finally, Moto2 Arrives at Estoril

Ever since Round One at Qatar, I’ve been looking forward to watching the 40 bikes of the Moto2 grid wind it up and head into the 100°first turn at Estoril Circuit. My imaginary sources at bwin tell me there’s an over/under line on how many bikes will fail to make it to Turn Two this week, and the number currently sits at six. There’s a real premium at Estoril for qualifying on the first row, although it’s no guarantee of safety in the comically crowded Moto2 grid.

The Estoril circuit has the lowest average speed of all MotoGP tracks, but it offers a large contrast between fast and slow sections.

With Toni Elias’ name already engraved on the champion’s trophy this season, and his attention focused on returning to the premier class next year – Fear the Bunny – the Moto2 world is now riveted on the white-hot race for second place. After 16 rounds of generally outstanding racing, a mere two points separate Spaniard Julian Simon and Italian Andrea Iannone. Iannone’s history at Estoril has been abysmal, while Simon’s has been only slightly better. At Valencia last year, Simon enjoyed a win, but otherwise has suffered there, while Iannone’s best-ever Valencia finish was a sixth in 2008. These two could be battling through the last turn of the last lap of the last race this year; one of them should take it all next year.

Previsão do Tempo Para o Fim de Semana

Jorge Lorenzo was victorious at last year's Portuguese Grand Prix.

For all you unilinguals, the forecast for the greater Cascais area this weekend calls for rain on Friday and Saturday, with a 30% chance of showers on Sunday. Temps will be in the mid-60’s. This grim forecast is good news for nobody, least of all the patched-up Dani Pedrosa. But despite sketchy forecasts for much of the second half, Sundays have been dry all season long; no reason to think this weekend should be any different.

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