Portuguese GP: Ducati preview

DUCATI MARLBORO MEN AIM TO MAINTAIN WINNING MOMENTUM The MotoGP circus travels to Portugal for the penultimate race of the most thrilling MotoGP season yet, the Ducati Marlboro Team confident of another impressive performance following Loris ...

DUCATI MARLBORO MEN AIM TO MAINTAIN WINNING MOMENTUM

The MotoGP circus travels to Portugal for the penultimate race of the most thrilling MotoGP season yet, the Ducati Marlboro Team confident of another impressive performance following Loris Capirossi's superb win in last month's Japanese Grand Prix. The Italian stormed to his third victory of the year at Motegi (his sixth win with Ducati) in awesome style while team-mate Sete Gibernau finished just 1.3 seconds outside the top three.

Capirossi and Gibernau are convinced they can once again run up front at Estoril, the slowest circuit in MotoGP but nevertheless a real challenge for riders and engineers alike. Both men will be gunning for the Portuguese podium, Capirossi aiming to crown what is already the Ducati Marlboro Team's most successful season with a fourth race win, Gibernau anxious to put his midseason injuries fully behind him by scoring his first podium of the year.

Mathematically, the 2006 MotoGP World Championship is not yet out of Capirossi's reach. The man who has scored seven podium finishes this year with wins in Spain, the Czech Republic and Japan, runner-up results in France, Italy and Malaysia and a third place in Qatar is currently fourth overall, 31 points behind series leader Nick Hayden and 19 behind the second, Valentino Rossi.

LORIS CAPIROSSI, Ducati Marlboro Team rider, 4th overall, 205 points
"I am happy to go to these last two races because I understand our potential and I feel confident, especially after our win at Motegi. I am quite optimistic because both Estoril and Valencia could be run in cool conditions and Bridgestone have understood some important things and made some big steps forward with their cold-tyre performance. Our tyres worked very well in the cool at Phillip Island, in fact I think we had an advantage in those conditions, though we were out of luck in the race. Estoril isn't a bad track, it's not that interesting or that boring either, it's in the middle really, though it does have one of the greatest corners in MotoGP. You attack Turn Five at 230km/h, it's a lot of fun, when you get it right! As far as the championship goes, it isn't over until it's over. We have seen many big changes in the points situation throughout the year, which proves that anything can happen. Like at Phillip Island, going into that race (Dani) Pedrosa was second in the championship but he got only one point there and that changed everything for him."

SETE GIBERNAU, Ducati Marlboro Team rider, 10th overall, 95 points
"Just two races to go this season and I feel like we are very close to achieving the kind of results we have deserved for quite a while now. We were in good shape at Motegi but I lost some time during the first few laps of the race, so at Estoril we need to keep our heads down from the first lap to the last. Estoril is a strange track, very strange. It's got a long main straight but then it's got some really tiny corners. I have always been fast there but I've never clicked a really good result. The weather will be crucial because it could be quite cold, which can cause some problems through the left-handers because the track is very asymmetric (with nine right-handers and only four lefts), so it's not easy to get a lot of heat into the left side of the tyres. But Bridgestone have been working really well recently, working towards being fully competitive at every race, in both cool and hot conditions. At Estoril you need the front to turn really well, it has to turn well and you need confidence in the front so you can really attack the little corners, but then you need confidence in the front at every track!"

LIVIO SUPPO, Ducati MotoGP project manager
"We go to Estoril feeling very optimistic about our chances because we have been very competitive during the last few races. At the last four GPs Loris has scored two wins, a second place and a seventh at Phillip Island, where we were unlucky with the weather, which is an amazing performance, while Sete has also done pretty well considering that Sepang was his first race following a second operation to fix his broken collarbone. We are certain that both riders will be aspiring to make the podium at Estoril."

THE TRACK

The contrast of very slow and very fast corners at Estoril requires certain compromises in chassis settings and it's the same with the engine - the contrast between the fast start-finish straight and the many slow-speed corners requires maximum peak horsepower as well as gentle low-rpm performance. But perhaps the greatest concern for riders is the track's proximity to the Atlantic. High-speed winds often whip off the ocean, blowing bikes and riders off course, and throwing dust onto the circuit, reducing grip. Estoril hosts its seventh World Championship GP this year, though this is the ninth Portuguese GP. The nation's first two GPs were held at Spanish tracks in 1987 and 1988, because Estoril failed MotoGP's stringent track safety standards.

-credit: www.ducati.com

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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Loris Capirossi , Valentino Rossi , Sete Gibernau , Phillip Island