It has been just over half a year since the Estoril circuit last played host to a MotoGP world championship event but significant improvements in bike, tyre and riding performances over the winter will make for an even more ...
It has been just over half a year since the Estoril circuit last played host to a MotoGP world championship event but significant improvements in bike, tyre and riding performances over the winter will make for an even more competitive Portuguese GP this weekend.
Anticipating the race to April gives Estoril a spring-time calendar slot for only the second time since its first MotoGP race back in 2000, the last occasion being back in 2005. This year's event will be the ninth Portuguese GP, a race weekend that has traditionally not been easy for Bridgestone, although Makoto Tamada took pole position and scored a podium finish in 2004, which marked the first European podium result for a rider using Bridgestone tyres.
Improvements were also seen in last year's race with Ducati champion-in-waiting Casey Stoner taking a well deserved third place, crossing the line just 1.5s from the race-winner. Fellow Bridgestone users Marco Melandri and John Hopkins also took impressive top six results in 2007 for their respective Honda Gresini and Suzuki teams.
Estoril is one of the most technically demanding circuits on the calendar, putting all aspects of the bike-tyre-rider package to the test. At this earlier time of the year, the weather could also play a contributory role with conditions likely to be cooler and more unsettled than last season.
Hiroshi Yamada - Bridgestone Motorsport - Manager, Motorcycle Sport Unit
"It has been an exciting start to the season and the pace of competition is at an extremely high level. With Casey winning in Qatar and Valentino second in Jerez, we have seen some encouraging results so far this year at difficult circuits for us. Estoril has been also been a generally difficult race venue for us in the past, although we have also enjoyed a few successes there over the years with Tamada's pole and podium in 2004 and, more recently, Casey and Ducati's third place last season. We have never seen a rider on Bridgestone tyres take victory in Estoril, and this is something that we are working hard to resolve. It is going to be another tough weekend, but we will approach it with the usual determination."
Tohru Ubukata - Bridgestone Motorsport - Manager, Race Tyre Development
"The Estoril circuit is technically demanding and has a very eclectic character with slow, medium and fast corners, a long 1km straight, a chicane and a disproportionate number of left and right-hand turns, nine right and four left. The track was partially resurfaced in 2006 and is not consistently the same type of asphalt over the entire lap. All of this combines to make life tough on tyres and for this reason we tend to prefer harder compound rear tyres. The competition is really intense in MotoGP at the moment, and even slight advantages in the overall package can make a big difference, so we continue to work closely with our six teams to give them that valuable extra grip in qualifying and race."
Riding Perspective - Loris Capirossi - Rizla Suzuki MotoGP
"I am looking forward to going to Estoril. I really enjoy the track and I am sure it will suit the GSV-R quite well. It is a physically demanding circuit, quite tight and bumpy with some difficult and demanding corners which put all aspects of the bike-tyre-rider package to the test. Looking at tyre performance, Estoril was historically not a great track for Bridgestone, but they made really important developments last season and the improvement in tyre competitiveness and longevity was quite clear. I am sure we will see a further step ahead this weekend, which will be my first time using the Bridgestone tyres with Suzuki at Estoril. We had a good race at Jerez last time out and we also found a couple of things in the post-race test, but we are still not where we want to be and we know it's going to be tough in Portugal. The crew are all very focussed and know what is needed. The more we ride the bike, the more we are learning about it."
Casey Stoner was on form from the opening free practice sessions in last September's Portuguese Grand Prix, topping the opening day's classification with a best lap of 1m37.950s, as one of only two riders to dip under 1m38s. Five Bridgestone-shod riders made it into the top ten with Randy de Puniet (Kawasaki) and John Hopkins (Suzuki) also in the top six. Qualifying was closely-fought with Stoner on the front row in second place just 0.040s from Nicky Hayden's pole time. The race was also very competitive but ultimately won by Yamaha's Valentino Rossi ahead of Honda's Dani Pedrosa. Stoner converted a strong weekend into a fine third place podium result, just 1.5s from the race winner, while Marco Melandri (Honda Gresini) and Hopkins also claimed strong top six results using Bridgestone tyres.