Lorenzo cuts Rossi's title advantage with Estoril triumph2009-10-04 03:44
Jorge Lorenzo repeated his 2008 Estoril victory from pole on Sunday to significantly boost his title chances as Valentino Rossi could only manage fourth place at the bwin.com Grande Prémio de Portugal.
The Fiat Yamaha pair got away in first and second places on the grid but Rossi was unable to match the pace of Lorenzo as he pulled away quickly at the front. On his return to action Ducati's Casey Stoner rode brilliantly to follow Lorenzo across the line in second place, whilst Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa was third.
Lorenzo will now feel that with three races to go and an 18 point deficit to Rossi the championship is far more achievable than before the visit to Portugal. The Spaniard was in unstoppable form in the Atlantic Coast sunshine and his fourth win of the year was eventually secured by a 6.3s margin.
Stoner performed admirably on his return to action after two months away due to illness, achieving his first podium since Assen in June â€” and he now has his home race at Phillip Island to look forward to in a fortnight's time.
Pedrosa rode well from fourth on the grid, taking the holeshot with one of his traditionally rapid starts onboard the factory RC212V and briefly holding the lead before Lorenzo slipped through. Pedrosa's third place was his eighth podium of 2009.
World Champion Rossi appeared to be off-colour throughout the race, finishing off the podium for the first time at Estoril in the premier class. The championship leader will undertake a comprehensive inquest into his lack of competitiveness with his Fiat Yamaha crew after finishing 23 seconds behind Lorenzo.
Behind the MotoGP big guns at the front, Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) was 10 seconds back on Rossi in fifth place, whilst Toni Elías (San Carlo Honda Gresini) held off Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) for sixth on the line.
The top ten also featured Nicky Hayden (Ducati Marlboro), James Toseland (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Chris Vermeulen (Rizla Suzuki), with Mika Kallio (Pramac Racing) crashing out early on and Loris Capirossi (Rizla Suzuki) and Alex de Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini) retiring due to technical problems.
Another solid fourth placed finish for Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Racing) saw him extend his title advantage to 26 points in the 250cc class after Álvaro Bautista (Mapfre Aspar) crashed out early on, whilst World Champion Marco Simoncelli (Metis Gilera) brought himself back into the championship fight with another win.
Bautista's engine appeared to seize up on lap four causing him to crash out, leaving Simoncelli to take his fifth win of the year â€” and his fourth in the last six rounds â€” putting the Italian two points behind the Spaniard in the standings.
Behind Simoncelli, Mike di Meglio (Mapfre Aspar) and Héctor Barberá (Pepe World Team) crossed the line neck and neck, and although they were given exactly the same race time second place was awarded to Di Meglio (who had performed the fastest lap of the two riders), whilst Aoyama rode steadily to fourth place.
The Japanese rider finished 12 seconds slower than Simoncelli but leaves Portugal in a stronger position than he arrived in. In fifth place following Aoyama across the line two seconds back was Jules Cluzel (Matteoni Racing), whilst Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda PTT SAG) did well to finish sixth.
Pol Espargaró (Derbi Racing) scored an excellent victory in the 125cc category to make up for his last lap Misano nightmare, as he judged the final stages to perfection to outdo Sandro Cortese (Ajo Interwetten) and Bradley Smith (Bancaja Aspar).
World Championship candidate Julián Simón (Bancaja Aspar) crashed on the 16th lap when leading by more than five seconds as he suffered a rare drop in his consistently high standards this year, at the end of a highly competitive weekend. He will have to wait a while longer to clinch the title but is still 50.5 points ahead with three rounds remaining.
Espargaró held his nerve in a three-way battle at the front over the final laps, eventually crossing the line 0.394s in front of Cortese and 0.581s ahead of Smith. Stefan Bradl (Viessmann Kiefer Racing) was ten seconds behind the podium finishers, whilst Joan Olivé (Derbi Racing Team) was a further six seconds back in fifth.
The next two rounds of the 2009 FIM MotoGP World Championship take place back-to-back, with the Iveco Australian Grand Prix (16th-18th October) being held a week before the Shell Advance Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix (23rd-25th October).
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