Bright sunshine finally emerged at the end of the afternoon practice session at Estoril today, but only after heavy rain throughout the day had significantly disrupted the start of the Grand Prix of Portugal race weekend. The morning session was...
Bright sunshine finally emerged at the end of the afternoon practice session at Estoril today, but only after heavy rain throughout the day had significantly disrupted the start of the Grand Prix of Portugal race weekend. The morning session was almost a complete wash-out, with only two riders leaving the pits to brave the treacherous track conditions and the thunderstorm that raged overhead. Like most of the MotoGP field, Repsol Honda riders Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso chose to sit out the session for safety reasons, and also because of the limited returns of riding in such conditions.
The afternoon practice also started wet, but the rain clouds had done their worst by this point and, although there were still some puddles around the track, the surface slowly began to dry as the session progressed. With marginal conditions throughout however, the lap times were widely spread as some riders were clearly more comfortable than others on the cold and slippery surface. Andrea Dovizioso was gaining in confidence and had set the fastest first two sectors of the lap when he touched a white line turning in to Turn eight and fell from his RC212V. The 24-year-old Italian was unhurt and soon returned to the track on his second bike, increasing his speed once again and setting the ninth fastest time with his last lap of the session.
As in Australia two weeks ago, Dani Pedrosa was again greeted with less than favourable conditions today for his return to riding after his absence through injury. The Spaniard steered clear of trouble however to complete 19 valuable laps in the afternoon session and prove to himself that his physical condition has improved significantly. Though his lap time was well off the pace of today's fastest rider, Jorge Lorenzo, Pedrosa chose caution over heroics and made a steady start to the weekend, quietly confident that he can move up the timesheets tomorrow.
Due to the loss of this morning's session, the practice and qualifying sessions tomorrow have been extended in duration from 45 minutes to one hour to give the teams more preparation time.
ANDREA DOVIZIOSO - 9th - 1m 52.294s +3.772s
"Everything was going quite well in the session and we were making progress and finding the best set-up for the track in these difficult conditions. I was on a fast lap when I made a mistake at turn eight and I had to brake on the white line at the edge of the track, and I crashed. Fortunately I wasn't injured which is the important thing, but this cost us time and prevented us from being further up the timesheets. We need to make some more improvements to the set-up of the machine and the electronics for these conditions - and this is really important at this track because Estoril is quite tight and you need to manage the power really well. So we are not as close to the front as we need to be, but we have a lot of potential to improve from here and we know the areas where we have to work. It was a strange day with the lost morning session so let's hope tomorrow brings more stable weather."
DANI PEDROSA - 13th - 1m 53.592s +5.070s
"Straight away I felt much better on the bike here than I did in Australia and the shoulder has recovered a lot, which is very positive. I feel a little bit tired now, but basically I feel ok after riding today. It was a pity that we missed the whole practice this morning because of the rain, and also at the beginning of the afternoon session the track conditions were difficult, which limited what we could achieve. To be honest I didn't feel totally at home on the bike today but I think this is normal after so long without riding, and this situation will improve. Usually when you ride in wet conditions you take it easy and this was especially true for me today because I certainly didn't want to take any unnecessary risks. It was good to be on the bike again and to see that I can ride more or less normally. Tomorrow we'll see what the weather brings, but it's good that we have two hours instead of two 45-minute sessions, and we'll make the most of that extra time."
TOSHIYUKI YAMAJI - REPSOL HONDA TEAM MANAGER
"It was an unusual day today with hardly anyone riding in this morning's session and then the afternoon session being held in mixed conditions. This contributed to the lap times being quite spread out and so even though the time gaps look quite big, we didn't get the real picture today. Andrea was on the fastest lap of the session so far when he touched the white line and had his fall, but the most important thing is that he is completely fine and has the opportunity to move forward tomorrow. For Dani it was a positive day because he has established that he's basically ok and when the track conditions improve we'd expect him to climb up the order too."