Dovizioso/Simoncelli Podium Battle Lights Up Estoril GP Honda riders Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V) and Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) lit up this afternoon's windswept Portuguese Grand Prix with a thrilling last-lap...
Dovizioso/Simoncelli Podium Battle Lights Up Estoril GP
Honda riders Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V) and Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) lit up this afternoon's windswept Portuguese Grand Prix with a thrilling last-lap duel for third place. The two Italians swapped places twice on the final lap, Dovizioso finally passing Simoncelli as they raced towards the chequered flag to grab third by 0.059 seconds. The pair -- who have been racetrack rivals since they contested minimoto races together in the late 1990s -- likened the duel to their frequent confrontations as youngsters!
The race was won by recently crowned World Champion Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) who outpaced team-mate Valentino Rossi on a track that was still damp in places following two days of torrential rain. Although all riders started the race with slicks tyres, this was the first time all weekend that they had ridden on slicks. Conditions yesterday afternoon were so bad that all qualifying sessions were called off, and even this morning's warm-up outings were run on a soaking track. Grid positions for all classes were decided by lap times from free practice.
With no dry track time before the race, riders and teams had no choice but to guesstimate a suitable dry set-up and gamble on tyre choice, which suggested three highly unpredictable races. The first laps of the MotoGP were hectic, with the leading pack swapping places every other corner as riders tried to suss out the conditions. Lorenzo led lap one, Hayden lap two, before Lorenzo and then Rossi took control. With a 1.8 second lead at one-third distance, it seemed like Rossi had the race won, but Lorenzo was the fastest man on the track in the last two thirds of the 28 laps and won his eighth victory of the season by a comfortable 8.6 second margin.
The contest for third place was frantic throughout, with four Honda riders -- Dovizioso, Simoncelli, Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda RC212V) and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) -- in the hunt for the position at one stage, along with Nicky Hayden (Ducati). During the later stages the contest became a three-way affair between Dovizioso, Simoncelli and Hayden, though the American never got close enough to mount a serious bid for the final place on the podium.
On the last lap Simoncelli nipped inside Dovizioso at Estoril's low-speed chicane, but Dovizioso kept his cool and focused on getting the best-possible drive out of Estoril's sweeping final curve, which took him past Simoncelli who made a minor error in the last corner, losing him crucial speed. De Puniet finished sixth, just over one second behind Hayden who finished six tenths behind Simoncelli whose team-mate Marco Melandri (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) had a difficult ride to ninth.
Pedrosa rode a hero's race despite his recently broken left collarbone. The Spaniard started from the fourth row of the grid and steadily worked his way forward until he was in the group disputing third place. But as the race went on his collarbone injury began to tell -- unable to fully control his RCV during heavy braking Pedrosa ran wide on several occasions, the lost time relegating him to eighth place at the finish. Despite that the former 125 and 250 World Champion retains second place in the point standings with one race remaining, at Valencia next weekend.
Hiroshi Aoyama (Interwetten Honda MotoGP RC212V) rode well to work his way into the top ten shortly after half-distance but then he ran wide, allowing fellow MotoGP rookies Hector Barbera (Ducati) and Alvaro Bautista (Suzuki) to come past him again. The Japanese ace crossed the finish line in 12th position.
A thrilling, topsy-turvy Moto2 race opened proceedings at Estoril today with the track still damp in places following some morning rainfall, though dry enough to make slick tyres the unanimous choice. The race was won by first-timer Moto2 winner Stefan Bradl (Viessmann Kiefer Racing, Suter) who beat Alex Baldolini (Caretta Technology Race Dept, I.C.P.) by just seven hundredths of a second.
Bradl, former 125 GP winner and son of former GP rider Helmut Bradl (who won five 250 GPs for Honda in 1991) rode a perfectly judged race, pushing hardest where the track was at its most grippy and taking care in the less grippy final part of the lap. Baldolini did get in front a few laps from the flag but Bradl had a better pace and eventually Baldolini settled for second and his first-ever podium finish.
The battle for the final podium featured plenty of rough and tumble, with a group of nine riders going for third place in the final laps. Phillip Island winner Alex De Angelis (JIR Moto2, Motobi) won the fight in the final seconds, outpacing Scott Redding (Marc VDS Racing Team, Suter) and impressive Moto2 first-timer Kenan Sofuoglu (Technomag-CIP, Suter) in the run to the chequered flag. Both de Angelis and Redding had charged through the pack after a steady first few laps when the track was still quite damp in places. The pair were 12th and 21st at the end of lap one.
Sofuoglo was the star performer in the early stages, breaking away from the pack at a terrific rate to build a seven second advantage in the first 11 laps, despite the treacherous conditions. But he was struggling with a loose left handlebar, the legacy of a crash during morning warm-up. His mechanics had still been fixing the damaged bike on the grid, hence the oversight.
With the handlebar causing him problems, the double World Supersport Champion's lead dwindled rapidly and he was caught by Bradl and Baldolini with seven laps remaining. While the 20-year-old German and the 25-year-old Italian continued their battle for the lead, Sofuoglo fell back into the clutches of the pack, where he did his best to hold onto that final podium place. At the finish line there was just 1.7 seconds between third-place De Angelis and 11th-placed Hector Faubel (Marc VDS Racing Team, Suter).
Sofuoglo joined the Moto2 grid at Estoril just a few weeks after clinching his second World Supersport crown with Ten Kate Honda, riding a Honda CBR600RR. The 26-year-old takes the place of Technomag-CIP rider Shoya Tomizawa who lost his life in a high-speed accident during last month's San Marino Moto2 race.
Marcel Schrotter (Interwetten Honda 125 Team) was out of luck in the 125 race. Starting from the second row for the first time this year, the 17-year-old German had high hopes of a top-ten result but was caught out by a mid-race rain shower. Schrotter crashed shortly before the race was red flagged. World Championship leader Marc Marquez (Derbi) won the restart despite sliding off on the sighting lap and as a result starting from the back row of the grid.
The MotoGP circus now drives across the Iberian peninsula to Valencia, where the last of this year's 18 World Championship events will take place next weekend at the Ricardo Tormo circuit, just inland from the Mediterranean city of Valencia.
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V): 3rd
"To be back onto the podium is so important for us and I'd like to thank my team and fans for their support this weekend. We can't be completely happy with our pace today because we were a long way from the front two riders, but overall the result is positive for us. The situation at Estoril has been strange for the whole weekend with every session being held in wet conditions and third position was the best we could have done today. It was quite an aggressive battle with Simoncelli but it has always been like this with him, so I needed to have a strategy for the last lap. He was faster than me in T3 and T4 and every time into the chicane he overtook me, but I knew that it was possible to take him out of the last corner because I had a bit more speed onto the straight, so this was my plan -- and it worked. Now it's possible to fight with Stoner for fourth place in the championship and - although it will be difficult because he was fast here before he crashed and also has a ten point lead - this will be our target for Valencia next weekend."
Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V): 4th
"I am really pleased with my race today. We did everything right and I was able to maintain a good rhythm from the start to the end. Dovizioso was a little bit faster than me on the straights but I still thought I could beat him. Unfortunately I made a tiny mistake in the final turn and lost a little bit of speed onto the straight, which gave him the advantage over the line. It was a shame but I am still delighted because this feels almost as good as a podium to us. Over the last four or five races I have been consistently on the pace from Friday practice and we did it again here at Estoril. Obviously we still have to work to improve the bike, especially the electronics, if we want to be on the podium but maybe we can do that at Valencia."
Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda RC212V): 6th
"I am quite satisfied because this is the best result so far after my bad injury. The weather today was good but it was a sort of gamble for everybody as we did not test in the dry. I took a good start and felt immediately comfortable on the bike. I missed my braking point in turn one and ran wide, losing three seconds. Probably without that little mistake I could have battled for the podium. Since my injury I am still facing some problems in braking and during downshifting but I am really pleased with this result and want to thank the team for the good overall package."
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V): 8th
"I have mixed feelings after this race. On one side the fact that I could finish 28 laps is good because from quite early in the race I didn't know if it would be possible. From the third lap I lost strength in my left arm and I couldn't really feel it. Honestly I didn't think I could keep that pace at the beginning of the race. At one stage I could see that finishing third would have been possible with the pace we were running, but it was impossible because soon I had no power in the arm. On every lap I was feeling more tired and I couldn't maintain the 1m 39.5 laps. With ten laps to go I couldn't keep pushing and I dropped back quite a lot. I'm going to have a check-up again with the doctors tomorrow because the arm still feels quite numb, but anyway we'll have three days to relax and recover to be ready for Valencia. In terms of the position in the championship, I'm 19 points ahead and so I hope to hold on to second place."
Marco Melandri (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V): 9th
"I am disappointed and upset because nothing has gone our way since the start of the season. I don't know what else to say and I don't want to start talking about why this is happening to us. All I can say is that I am very disappointed."
Hiroshi Aoyama (Interwetten Honda MotoGP RC212V): 12th
"I had a good start, but I didn't want to risk anything at the beginning of the race. First, I wanted to see how the bike and the tyres reacted to the conditions. Then it went better and better and I was faster and faster in the middle of the race. I could catch the group in front of me and was able to overtake them. Unfortunately I made a mistake then and to avoid crashing I had to go wide. Fortunately I didn't crash, but I lost my position. I am angry about the mistake, but that is racing and it happens. Next time I will try to ride a better race in Valencia."
Stefan Bradl (Viessmann Kiefer Racing, Suter): winner
"The race was very difficult because we didn't have any dry practice, so we just fitted slick tyres for the race and hoped that we would have a good dry set-up for this track. I could see the track was still a bit damp in places, so I was careful where the track was wet, like the last corner, and I pushed hard everywhere else. The bike worked well. I tried my best to keep my concentration during the last five laps when I always saw 'plus zero' on my pit-board. I really needed this win because it's been a long time -- my last GP win was in 2008, with the 125. The first part of this season was difficult because it took time for us to learn the bike and for me to get used to the four-stroke riding style. At the last races things have been getting better and better. We have learned a lot and we hope to carry this into 2011."
Alex Baldolini (Caretta Technology Race Dept, I.C.P.): 2nd
"It's a very good sensation to stand on the podium! During the race I tried not to think about it -- I kept telling myself to relax, that this is just another race, just ride your best and see where you are at the flag. I tried very hard to keep my focus during the last laps. I attacked Stefan with two laps to go, then he overtook me again and I decided, okay, second place is good enough. I want to say thanks to my team and my family. The team has done a great job in the last part of the season -- the bike is now very good."
Alex De Angelis (JIR Moto2, Motobi): 3rd
"This is another very important podium, my third in a row. The end of the race was incredible. After the start I tried to stay calm and told myself that this was a long race and that the track would improve. But it was very difficult riding slick tyres on a track that was still damp in some corners. Towards the end of the race the track was much more dry and grippy, so I was able to fight a lot with the other riders and risk this podium."
Marcel Schrotter (Interwetten Honda 125 Team): DNF
"I am disappointed. I had a good start, but lost a little bit in the first couple of laps. Then the chaos started and riders overtook on both sides of me. I was able to stay with the group, as all the riders were more or less modest with their speed. I was strong in braking and fought some positions back. Then I was stopped by a slower rider in front of me and I lost control of the bike when it started to rain and I slipped off. That was not predictable. I am sure more was possible, but the race was stopped and unfortunately I was not allowed to join the restart."