Portuguese Grand Prix at Estoril
15, 16, 17 April 2005
Sete Gibernau (Team MoviStar Honda RC211V) is plotting to turn the tables on title rival Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) in Estoril on Sunday. Barged into second place on home turf in Spain last weekend, Sete has undergone intense physiotherapy on his left shoulder to get himself fit for this race, and the Spaniard is in no mood to suffer a repeat of that defeat.
Max Biaggi (Repsol Honda RC211V) and Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V) have a different agenda this weekend. After Max's misfortunes in Spain where he couldn't get to grips with the track in qualifying, the Roman will be looking to get on terms with the front-runners early and work hard for a result, while Hayden will try to avoid crashing out - as he did at Jerez.
Marco Melandri (Team MoviStar Honda RC211V) who finished his first race on an RC211V in a fine third place last weekend will be seeking to consolidate that result with another solid early-season showing. Melandri's form has surprised some, but the young Italian seems to have justified Honda's faith in him after a troubled 2004 season with Yamaha.
The Camel Honda pairing of Alex Barros (Camel Honda RC211V) and Troy Bayliss (Camel Honda RC211V) shored up the Honda cause last weekend with fourth and sixth places and that gives the team even more to aim for this weekend as every team fights for valuable early season points. Barros finished third here in 2004.
Makoto Tamada (Konica Minolta Honda RC211V) knows he needs to show an improvement on his eighth place in Spain and the Japanese ace needs to maximise his qualifying performance now he has switched to Michelin rubber for 2005. The fact that he finished second here last year should offer ample encouragement.
Estoril has only been on the calendar since 2000 and in those years since its arrival Rossi has finished third in 2000 and won there for the last four years in the premier class, while Gibernau has never really shone there in a race. Now is his chance to rectify that at this fast but wind-lashed track.
The track lies 20 miles west of Lisbon and is close to the town of Sintra. The 4.182km circuit features a balance of turns with nine rights and four lefts. Built in 1972 the surface is now bumpy in parts and some riders are unsure over the asphalt's ability to provide dependable grip over a race weekend.
Nevertheless the track offers a significant challenge regardless of grip issues. The slowest turn is a chicane that is the slowest in MotoGP racing requiring patience and a smooth style to avoid catastrophe. On the other hand a long, fast right onto the start/finish straight, the 'Parabolica' is one of the great corners in racing and loved by the best riders.
Turn one at the end of the 986m straight is a favourite overtaking spot and so is turn six, the 'Parabolica interior' behind the pits complex. The rest of the track is fairly unremarkable requiring no out-of-the-ordinary machine set-ups. But the wind blowing off the Atlantic Ocean is always a concern - and wind was a determining factor in Spain last weekend.
"I left Spain hoping to have paid off my dues to bad luck or whatever it was," said Max. "I go to Portugal united with my team more than ever. The Jerez race did not really match my expectations, or those of my team. I trust HRC completely and in Estoril we must solve this. We are very motivated and the first race, even though it was difficult, didn't discourage us. I like the Portuguese track, and I never wanted to be part of the game as badly as now."
Max's Repsol team-mate Nicky Hayden said, "After crashing out of the first race I'm happy we can get back on the bike quickly and put Jerez behind us. It's hard to look at positives so soon after such a knock but the team is really strong and we are super-determined. I'll be fine when I get on the bike on Friday for the first Free Practice. But I missed the race last year as I broke my shoulder, so I haven't got a huge amount of experience round the track."
"I'm feeling very highly motivated for the next Grand Prix and all I'm thinking about is recovering as well as possible over the next three days in order to continue in the same vein that we have started the championship," commented Sete. "It's a shame there isn't a spare week between the two races but I'm confident this will have a minimal effect on our work."
"I've never been to Estoril with Honda," said Melandri. "But after the result we had in Jerez I believe we can do a good job in Portugal. I didn't think I could be on the podium there, but now I know that with a good setting I can be in front. I've been on the podium three times in Estoril in 250 cc. and the track is not so bad. There are a lot of bumps, but it's fun to ride a MotoGP bike from turn four to turn seven."
"We had a few problems finding the right set-up throughout the whole weekend in Spain," said Barros. "However I'm already looking forward to the next Grand Prix in Portugal. It's a track I quite like even though there's a lot of wind, which brings sand onto the asphalt. We will try to be more competitive from the off, and to back that up in the race."
His team-mate Bayliss said, "We haven't tested in Portugal this year but I've ridden there a couple of times and the track isn't too bad. The Honda has always gone well there and I can't wait to get back on it. I want to make another step forward with the RC211V, I'm getting more and more comfortable in the saddle and I'm sure we're going to have a few great races during this season."
Tamada is ready for the challenge, as ever. "Things didn't go too well in Jerez," he said. "I can't wait to get back on the track after my first Grand Prix on Michelins and I still need some time to fully adapt to them. I have good memories of the Estoril circuit and I'm confident of fulfilling our potential there."
In the 250cc class Dani Pedrosa (Team MoviStar Honda RS250RW) aims to stamp his authority on the grid again. The reigning World Champion won in Spain and will be aiming to improve on his fourth place here last year.
His team-mate Hiroshi Aoyama (Team MoviStar Honda RS250RW), now with a full season of Grands Prix and the contours of 16 different circuits etched in his mind, will be looking to finish this race after a DNF in Spain.
The young guns who stepped up to 250cc competition from the 125cc class this year, Hector Barbera (Fortuna Honda RS250RW), Jorge Lorenzo (Fortuna Honda RS250RW) and Andrea Dovizioso (Scot Racing Team Honda RS250RW) are no respecters of reputation and all three will be aiming to better Dovi's fine fourth at Jerez - his first race on a 250.
Dani said, "The most influential factor at Estoril is the wind; there are always strong blasts across the circuit that make it difficult to ride. It's a twisty circuit with a long straight where riders tend to bunch together. It's not easy to break clear here and the races are often in big groups. We need to find a good setting and prepare for the race as well as possible."
"I like the Estoril circuit," said Dani's team-mate Aoyama. "The only problem for me last year was the strong winds. It made things difficult at times. The track has many places for hard braking and I like racing on tracks like that."
Dovizioso suffered a rear wheel puncture while leading the 125cc race but that has not dampened his enthusiasm for the Estoril track. He said. "I really like the circuit despite what happened to me last year. I'm looking forward to the race, particularly after my race at Jerez, I finished fourth in my first 250cc race, at a track I don't like at all!"
The 125cc riders are intent on preventing Marco Simoncelli (Aprilia), who won in Spain, from establishing a significant early season points lead. Thomas Luthi (Elit Grand Prix Honda RS125R), who was on terms with him until an electrical problem robbed him of a finish, will be particularly keen to win his first Grand Prix here, now that he's back on form.
Fabrizio Lai (Kopron Racing World Honda RS125RW) rode a mature race in Spain and the Italian runner will be keen to establish himself as a title contender with another rostrum, or better, here. "I am adapting well to the Honda and look forward to Estoril. I didn't want to take any risks at Jerez in my first race for the team but at Estoril I will be more comfortable on the bike and, I hope, even faster."
Alvaro Bautista (Seedorf Racing Honda RS125R), who failed to finish in Spain, knows he needs points this weekend, despite his lack of enthusiasm for the track. "There is an important external factor at this circuit - the wind - it causes a lot of problems for all the riders, and you have to take that into account. It's a narrow circuit, with only one fast corner, not one of my favourite tracks."
Source: Honda Pro Image