A tightly fought Grand Prix of Portugal saw Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa take his eighth podium finish of the season and record the fastest lap of the race at Estoril today.
In a thrilling finish, his team-mate Andrea Dovizioso came within 0.014s of sixth place, emerging from
the final corner side-by-side with Gresini Honda rider Toni Elias and competing in a straight sprint for the chequered flag.
As has become customary, Pedrosa made another fantastic start and powered his RC212V from fourth on the grid to the head of the field on the approach to Estoril's tight Turn One. He then led for the first two corners before being passed by a hard-charging Jorge Lorenzo. Pedrosa then was able to match Casey Stoner for pace when the Australian came past on lap three and the 24-year-old Spaniard recorded the race's quickest lap - a new lap record time of 1m 36.937s - on lap 11 as he continued to put pressure on Stoner.
Pushing to the maximum, a big moment on lap 22 cost him time and Pedrosa eventually came home in a well-deserved podium place - his second in successive races and his third on the trot at Estoril. The result means Pedrosa retains third place in the World Championship with 173 points to Stoner's 170.
“I made a very good start today and held the lead until the third corner where I ran a little wide and Jorge came by. He was pushing really hard in the first few laps and even though I was too, I couldn't match his rhythm as he opened up a gap”, he said. “When Casey came past I tried to stay with him and was able to put some pressure on and maintain a good pace. I had a moment though where the bike was snaking as I braked, I ran wide and I nearly crashed - that cost me some time and opened up the gap to Casey. So I'm reasonably happy with a podium and it definitely will now be an interesting fight for third place in the championship with Casey. He is the reference in Australia and so the next race is going to be hard fought - I'm looking forward to it. I definitely want to win at least one of the three races left and maybe the next one is the most important.”
Dovizioso started from eighth on the grid and spent the first section of the race fighting in a tightly contested mid pack. Lying ninth for the first four laps, the Italian then picked off Loris Capirossi, Elias and Nicky Hayden on successive laps and held sixth place for 17 of the 28 laps.
A moment on lap 22 gave Elias the chance to close up again and the Spaniard slipped by. Dovi mounted a last-lap attack and exited the final bend neck-and-neck with Elias but was beaten to the line by the tiniest of margins. Seventh position was good enough for Dovizioso to keep hold of fifth place in the world championship, eight points ahead of Colin Edwards.
“It was a really close finish on the line and I just missed out on sixth place - which isn't the result we wanted, obviously. I started from the third row and was ninth in the early laps before getting past Capirossi, Elias and Hayden which took me up to sixth. I was able to hold the gap to Elias behind me but then I lost time on one lap and he came past”, he explained. “I closed again and it was really close on the last lap - I thought I had a chance of taking the place out of the last corner but it didn't happen. We've had a few issues finding good grip and finding the best settings this weekend which has made it quite difficult to get the best out of the machine. I'm disappointed today but we have plenty of potential to move forward and we'll continue to improve our understanding with the new suspension for the next races.”
With three rounds of the 17-race World Championship remaining, MotoGP now travels first to Australia and then Malaysia for two races on successive weekends, beginning with the classic at Phillip Island in two weeks' time.