In points quest
Fiat Yamaha riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo head to Europe's Atlantic coast this weekend as they look to build on a positive start to the season with another bountiful points-haul at Estoril.
The eleventh edition of the Grand Prix of Portugal
is the third round of the 2008 MotoGP World Championship and is an event that has seen contrasting fortunes for the Italian and the Spaniard in the past.
Rossi is the most successful rider in Grand Prix history at Estoril, having finished on the podium on each of his eight visits to the circuit, including five race victories. The 29-year-old hopes to round that figure up to a half dozen on Sunday as he targets a repeat of his hard-fought victory at the circuit last October. That win was Rossi's most recent, making for a six-race run without an appearance on the top step of the podium – his longest since his debut win in 2000.
"Estoril last year was a great race; it was a fantastically close battle with Pedrosa and one of the high points of the season for us. It's also the last time I won a race and I hope that this is something we can repeat again this time !”, said the Italian. “Jerez was a very important race for us, second place in just our second race with Bridgestone and following the difficult result in Qatar it was very important, plus it gave confidence to everyone involved that our package is really coming together. Our bike was very strong and our tyres worked well until the end, then on Monday we had a test and were able to make some more important steps forward with Bridgestone.
We have been working step by step but everyone is very focused and motivated and confidence is running high. Hopefully we are now ready to fight for the win! Portugal is usually a good track for us and I've had a lot of very good races there, especially with Yamaha. It's a different time of year to when we raced there last year so the conditions might be a little different, but I think that we're going to be ready for anything!"
Estoril is one of only four circuits on the current calendar where Jorge Lorenzo has previously raced that he has not had a victory in any Grand Prix class. It is also one of only two current circuits where the 21-year-old has not had a pole position, but after starting from the front of the grid and finishing on the podium in each of the opening two races of his MotoGP career he has nothing to fear this weekend.
“I am feeling very happy at this early stage of the season; we have had two podiums and two pole positions in my first two MotoGP races! Of course I would like to have won in Jerez, but I think is too early to be worrying about victories, we are working a lot and progressing very well and this is the most important thing”, admitted the Spaniard. “The test in Jerez was very good and it seems that all the changes we're making to the M1 are bringing positive results; I hope every test will be as good! In Estoril last year I was third and very close to my second championship, so it was an exciting time for me. That said it's always a very important race for Spanish riders because Portugal is our neighbour and many Spanish fans come to the race. It's actually not one of my best tracks however; I've never been better than third! The weather is quite unpredictable and the track is tricky with some very heavy braking zones but I know that Yamaha seems to go well there so I hope this will continue with me. It's the first track I've raced at this year at which I haven't tested, so it's going to be a new challenge and I will need to adapt on Friday with my team and go step by step from there. Once again however my aim for the race remains the same; to learn, enjoy, improve and do my very best once again.”
Whilst last year's race was run in ambient temperatures of 28ºC, the spring climate on the Portuguese coast averages in the low 20s, although the location of the Estoril circuit is just seven kilometres from the Atlantic and it is notorious for dramatic changes in weather, with spells of warm sunshine often interrupted by wild gusts of cold wind and rain.
The layout of the Autodromo Fernanda Pires de Silva is similarly contrasting, featuring one of the longest main straights in MotoGP and one of the slowest corners. Several other twisty sections make for the lowest average speed in the championship but the 200km/h kink at turn five and the final Parabolica corner are two of the toughest tests of any rider's skill and bravery.