2012 Estoril MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Sunday Looking Good For Some Racing

The rain, which has been chasing motorcycle races around this season, finally got bored and moved off on Saturday, giving the track at Estoril a chance to dry. The final corner, which proved so treacherous on Friday, was greatly improved - and made even better by the addition of a cone on the inside of Turn 13, marking where the wet patches were so the riders could take a line inside them. But the wet patches were still there, with water apparently seeping up from the ground to be sucked to the surface. The repairs to the track had been half the problem; the new asphalt was still so fresh that the bitumen was sucking up water from below. Not a lot the track can do about such a problem, and rather cruel to be punished for trying to fix the track in the first place.

While their resurfacing attempts may not have paid off as intended, the circuit management's bargain basement approach to ticket pricing made a huge difference. The track was busier on a Saturday than any time I have ever been here, with many fans deciding that for the price of a tank of gas and a cheap hotel, they would head for Estoril. With tickets selling for between 2 euros for the cheapest single-day entrance to 20 euros for a three-day grandstand pass, the entertainment is also a little limited. Jumbotrons around the track are few and far between, the only one I have seen has been opposite the main grandstand. But for 2 euros, and with some great seating around Estoril, who is going to complain?

It will be interesting to see what effect the ticket prices has when the official numbers are released on Sunday. If cheap prices bring a lot of people to the track - who will still be spending their money in the local bars, hotels and restaurants - then the gains to the local economy could well outweigh the losses made by the track.

Though their view may have been limited to what they could actually see on the track, the fans got their money's worth on Saturday. In Moto3, Sandro Cortese pulled a major gap with the factory KTM, finishing three tenths ahead of Maverick Viñales on the FTR Honda, who was in turn four tenths quicker than local boy Miguel Oliveira. Only the top 5 were within a second of each other, last weekend's winner and Italian teenage sensation Romano Fenati finishing 6th, just over a second slower than Cortese. But the gaps are not necessarily representative of the real situation in Moto3: All day long, Oliveira featured either at or close to the top of the timesheets. If there was one rider you were going to bet on to win on Sunday, it would be the Portuguese rider, Oliveira clearly dead set on a victory in front of the last home crowd he will not see for a while. Cortese will be as fast as he always is, Viñales will be up at the front as is expected of a championship favorite, and Fenati is not so far off that he could not also join in the fun. But Oliveira looks for all the world like he is going to pull something special out of the bag come race day.

In Moto2, Marc Marquez rules the roost as ever, while Thomas Luthi is right him. While Marquez and Luthi can be expected to be scrapping for the lead, a close group consisting of Scott Redding, last week's victor Pol Espargaro, 125cc runner up Johann Zarco, Andrea Iannone, Julian Simon - happy now that he is back on a Suter, a bike he knows much better than the FTR he had - Toni Elias and Alex de Angelis. The race is shaping up to be the usual Moto2 thriller, with the usual suspects set to duke it out. Iannone is back at the front after disappearing in mid-pack last week, further proof that though Crazy Joe, as his team call him, has plenty of talent, a touch of consistency would not go amiss. And it is gratifying to see both Julian Simon and Nico Terol further forward. For Simon, it is mainly a question of confidence, while Terol seems to be getting slowly up to speed on a four stroke.

Simon's chassis switch shows the importance - whether psychological or real - of being comfortable with the bike you are using. Further down the order - much further down the order - former World Supersport star Gino Rea is suffering with the Moriwaki, alongside teammate Ratthapark Wilairot. Wilairot was a regular top ten rider last year on an FTR, but has dropped 15 places or so since joining Gresini on the Moriwaki. With development of the Japanese chassis seemingly stalled - Rea posted good times during preseason testing, but went backwards as the others went faster - Gresini is rumored to be ready to drop Moriwaki in favor of Suter. That, rumor has it, was the Italian's second choice, forced upon them after Kalex refused to supply extra bikes. It will be interesting to see whether a different chassis can change the fortunes in the Gresini garage.

In MotoGP, it is looking like a Honda runaway. Casey Stoner isn't happy with his setup, but that did not stop him from getting the first pole of his career at Estoril. Dani Pedrosa is close beside him, and despite an electrical problem - apparently a genuine electrical problem, not one caused by the con rods smashing through the crankcases and preventing the alternator from working, as has happened in previous years - the Spaniard is looking on top form. Stoner's chest infection is clearing up, but question marks remain over his arm pump, with Stoner once again saying that the pressure during practice is never sufficient to cause his arms to pump up.

Third on the grid, and his second front row appearance in the three qualifying sessions so far, is Monster Tech 3 Yamaha's Cal Crutchlow. The British rider is on fire so far this year, and has the same number of front row appearances as 2010 World Champion Jorge Lorenzo. New tires, bigger bikes, a year's experience have all helped, but what has really lit a fire in his belly has been the arrival of Andrea Dovizioso as his teammate. That has only enlarged the chip Crutchlow already has on his shoulder, and further distrust of the brakes he has been forced to use has made things even worse. In reality, Crutchlow's brakes can't be that bad, as he is currently matching the pace of the Aliens in front of him. Crutchlow is getting closer and closer to his debut podium, and Estoril is as good a chance as any.

Though Crutchlow may be the fastest of the Yamahas on the grid, that does not necessarily mean he is the fastest in actual race pace. Ben Spies' qualifying practice was marred by traffic, finding himself being balked three times during the session. His race pace is much better, and close to the pace of the Hondas. With a good start, Spies should be able to run with the Hondas, or at least give them a run for their money.

The other factory Yamaha is struggling, Jorge Lorenzo still having problem with the rear of his M1. The back wheel is blocking - locking up and stepping sideways -on corner entry, making it impossible to get corner entry right and carry the speed that is the strong point of the Yamaha. Lorenzo is disappointed, and hoping for improvement on Sunday morning before the race.

Over at Ducati, Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi are cautiously optimistic. The new setup Rossi has switched to based on Hayden's settings, has worked out rather well. Rossi can now once again brake and enter the corner much more as he did previously. That is obvious from trackside, where the Italian looks a lot more confident under braking. There are still problems, however: the rear of the bike is still an issue, with the Ducati losing acceleration in a straight line. And the bike also still wants to run wide, the problem the bike has had since the very beginning. Rossi was pleased - if pleased is the right word - with 9th, though he would have preferred to have been a little bit further forward. 5Th or 6th is where Rossi is at the moment, and the question is how long Rossi is going to regard this as good enough. New parts are to be tested on Monday, though only chassis parts and a new electronics package. The engine upgrades - needed to smooth power delivery - look like taking significantly longer.

The qualifying session was briefly interrupted by a red flag, after Colin Edwards was knocked off his bike by Randy de Puniet, who crashed while on a hot lap. Edwards broke his collarbone and suffered a concussion, but was fortunately further unhurt. The Texan flies to Barcelona on Monday to get surgery, and after that, he is free to go. The media center has started a pool on when Edwards would make a return from injury. But the number of people betting that Edwards would be back at Le Mans in two weeks' time massively outweighs those willing to lay money against it. Edwards is one tough cookie, and is not so easy to keep away from the track. Whether he is being wise or not, you have to admire his grit and determination.

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In French, to lock a wheel is to "bloquer". An anti-lock system is un systême anti-bloquage. I suspect it is similar in Spanish and Jorge is just mis-translating a little.

It takes some time to master Spanglish and Frenglish!

What does this mean?

"And the bike also still wants to run wide, the problem the bike has had even in the 125cc race."

is Ducati racing in 125cc?

Just when I started really liking the guy.... last week he says Dovi should not pass him in the race because he's not fighting for the championship... Now in his post qualifying interview he says he is worried about getting past Crutchlow in the race because Cal is "a little dangerous"??

Come on man, you're not entitled to anything, we're only at the third race of the season, and it's called racing for a reason... Really disappointing. I thought he was past all that.

I'm sure you're right. He reminds me of Biaggi in this way... all smiles and compliments, until you actually threaten him, then it's fear and unfounded cheap shots. Totally unnecessary.

Jorge seems to be getting better with age, so hopefully he is just frustrated, and lashed out a bit, and not going down this road again.

There weren't a lot of happy campers following QP and Lorenzo seems to have been a bit gobsmacked by Stoner taking Jerez and now pole at Estoril, but the guy has excellent self-control on the track (usually) and I don't see him anywhere but mixing it up at the pointy end. It looks like a bitch of a track for someone with suspect arm-pump, once Lorenzo settles into rhythm I think he'll be over the grid position thing in very short order. Everybody catching Pedrosa is the question, and they'll have to get around Crutchlow first!

No disrespect intended, but I think the only thing unfounded and cheap is your opinion of Lorenzo.

He has never taken a cheap shot at any of the other title contenders. He only criticizes those who show a willful disregard for the safety of others.

I think you'll find the only guy that constantly takes cheap shots at his competition in the paddock is Rossi, all under the guise of "mind games".

It would seem the only thing Lorenzo is "worried" about is being taken out of the championship contention by a boneheaded move by a guy on the same bike as he is, guys who have no shot at the title too.

Some people have been quick to think the worst of his comments recently when I think he's often misunderstood. Until I see the "dangerous" comment in context I think he's referring to Cal being a contender, not reckless.

Likewise with the comments about Dovi from a week ago, people seem keen to think the worst instead of trying to figure out what he's saying, which is usually rational. People need to stop putting words in his mouth.

I agree.

A few words or sentence taken from a phrase can be spun to mean anything unless heard in the context it was intended.

I think this happens even more often when a language isn't your native tongue, a few words can sound a little odd or even confrontational without the entire conversation.

I get what what you're saying about language difficulties, but there's not much to take out of context here... he said Cal is a "very hard braker and sometimes a little dangerous". At what point has Cal been a danger to anyone? None that I can recall, so I call that unfounded.


And Lorenzo has to EARN the wins and titles. Shoot, if Danilo Petrucci has a shot for the win, he has every right to go for it. If Lorenzo doesn't want him to win, then he needs to be beat him to the checkers. Simple as that. That's what this is all about. And if he doesn't like the risk involved, he didn't choose his career very wisely.

All that being said... and like I stated in the first sentence, I like Lorenzo! I was just disappointed by how he acted.

that's inst a surprise, when Simoncelli was starting to shine in his RC213V then lorenzo started to scream about "He is dangerous for all, He should be off the series and bla bla bla", C'Mon stop the complaints, the same is happening now with Cal, Now than Cal is starting to shine in his M1, than there's possibilites than Crutchlow can ascend to the factory team if spies is kicked out and also the fact than Lorenzo clearly don't like any other Yamaha man to be competitive rather than him, he start again saying that that type of stuff.

¿who will be the next target for Lorenzo's critics?

For Honda, Stoner is keeping up is good job, even with the threat of the arm pump can be capable for finally break that ghost of estoril also looks like than pedrosa alarms of being kicked out has start to sound loud, he is now trying to convince HRC to reconsider.

And ducati is more possible than Hayden show a good surprise for all, Rossi is still loss in his bike, but all we want is to see Ducati in general to return to fight for first places.

Dani has been on a factory Repsol backed HRC RCV for a long time now. He hasn't shown much improvement if any and hasn't won the title. How many other riders can you think of who'd have been cut so much slack?

Dovi, 3rd in the world being outgunned by 12th place rookie of the year Cal, Aoyama in WSB, not to mention Stoners accendance to WC after regularly being 4th best, kind of illustrate just how good the bike has been..To many important observers Pedrosa has under performed and his job is under threat. Witness Honda's selfish insistence that the rookie to works teams rule be dropped for Marquez.

Sure, he's been a tad unlucky with injury but the results and facts remain, he's on borrowed time and he needs a big season this year..even then it could be too late.

Everybody is out of contract. Lorenzo seems to be spitting the dummy rather a lot lately and in my view could well be paving the way for a Yamaha exit. Repsol would be happy to have him, maintaining a Spanish presence in the team if IRTA and Dorna stand firm on the rookie rule as expected. HRC with Stoner and Lorenzo would be a formidable pairing and something the Honda bosses wouldn't be too unhappy about either. Stoner may retire. Lorenzo and Marquez for 2014?

It's an interesting situation that cannot just be dismissed as a few fanboys bashing away at keyboards..unless you are partisan in some way.

But you will recall Nakamoto's recent comments regarding Rossi on the factory team. "We have two very strong riders at the moment, why would we want Rossi?". This implies to me HRC intend to negotiate a continuation of both current riders contracts. He certainly hasn't threatened Pedrosa's place in the manner of Jarvis with Spies.

Hope is the last thing than a team loss when their star cannot do or are not capable to show that vote of confidence, of course than pedrosa have the blessing of repsol but maybe Honda is showning disappointment in a different way about pedrosa's lack of protagonism, seven years has passed and HRC and repsol is still waiting for a light for dani ¿but what happend? crashes, an incident with hayden, an incident with simoncelli, problems of every type etc etc. and for all in life there's a limit, also Marquez is knocking every time more stronger at HRC door.

Its possible than HRC-Repsol lineup will be Stoner-Marquez, time will tell.

"not to mention Stoners accendance to WC after regularly being 4th best, kind of illustrate just how good the bike has been.."

Stoner was "4th best" on a bike that Rossi has shown is not capable of much above 9th or 10th. He was out performing his machinery. Something that continues.
Lorenzo would have won the championship last year if Stoner hadn't gone to Honda. The difference isn't the motorcycle, it's the man.

10 wins 2011. No crashes. Champ.
3 wins 2010. 5 crashes. 4th.

That, my misguided #27er is the bike.

Very unfortunately, Jorge was right about Sic. I was a huge fan of his since the 250 days, but he was always dangerous and reckless. Though I like Cal a lot, I think Jorge is correct in his judgement. Jorge has never called Dani or Casey dangerous, if they did a hard move he has, but he's specific about it being a single move.

Jorge was dangerous when he was younger, so I think he can spot those who are like how he was.

that's inst a surprise, when Simoncelli was starting to shine in his RC213V then lorenzo started to scream about "He is dangerous for all, He should be off the series and bla bla bla",

Well, Sic *was* dangerous, he kicked out Lorenzo in Assen and Pedrosa in Le Mans last year.
Whether it's true to call Crutchlow dangerous ..., I don't know. Time will tell.

Without wishing to appear as Lorenzo's apologist, you need to remember that English is not his first language, and he often struggles to find the right words for what he means.

I suspect he meant that Cal is prepared to push the limits at the moment, as he has a point to prove, and that would be a fair comment to make, and is a risk to Lorenzo.

The same deal with his use of the word 'blocking' - clearly not the word for what he meant, but reported as if it were.

I too was a little disappointed by his comments, but it is easy to forget that things get lost in translation. In saying Cal is a little dangerous, he may well have been referring to his speed as being dangerous, meaning there is a danger he will not be able to pass him.

Anxiously waiting for the red light to go off...there are so much situations going on that they can start their own reality show and it would be a big hit!

I didn't understand this comment, "That has only enlarged the chip Crutchlow already has on his shoulder, and further distrust of the brakes he has been forced to use has made things even worse. In reality, Crutchlow's brakes can't be that bad, as he is currently matching the pace of the Aliens in front of him. Crutchlow is getting closer and closer to his debut podium, and Estoril is as good a chance as any."

What's different about Crutchlow's brakes?

He said:

"Yeah, we've got a problem with our brakes, we know that. Dovi's got the new upgraded brakes so, we haven't got em yet so, well we're not going to get them at all so I'm struggling to stop in a few areas and maybe this is hindering us a little bit but...."

Goes onto PR thanking stuff.

I think Jorge said: I will try to pass Cal by braking really hard, which can be a bit dangerous.

Nothing wrong with it.