Wake me when it's over

Portuguese MotoGP, Estoril, 4th October 2009
Words by Simon Bradley, pics as credited

Casey Stoner demonstrates that he still has what it takes. Pedrosa wonders if he can get some too...Estoril in Portugal is a brilliant circuit cursed with regularly having terribly boring motorcycle races. And for the life of me I can't work out why - it's got all the ingredients needed for fantastic racing and the championship is usually at a state where there's everything to play for by the time it comes here.

But more on that later. The Big News at Estoril was the return of Casey Stoner, who set out to confound the critics and assorted experts who variuously asserted that Rossi had beaten him mentally, that his mystery illness was psychosomatic at best and completely made up at worst, that he'd never come back, that he'd been kidnapped by aliens and taken to teach Elvis to ride properly and so on. OK, so I made that last bit up, but the opinions were wide ranging in everything except for the prognosis for the punchly little Aussie. Consensus was that his race, if you'll forgive the pun, was run. Well Stoner is nothing if not a fighter, and he set his stall fairly solidly with a fourth place in the first free practice. Not bad for someone who hadn't been ona bike in earnest for three months. It got better, with a couple of second places and a front row qualifying. The kid hasn't forgotten how to ride, clearly.

Neither has Jorge Lorenzo. With nothing much to lose in the championship fight, the young Spaniard came to Portugal giving it everything he had. And it showed - he utterly dominated both free practice and qualifying, annihilating the opposition and really making it plain that he meant business. Valentino Rossi, of course, can never be discounted. And the championship leader was pushing hard, though ultimately had to give best to Lorenzo in qualifying, while Dani Pedrosa ended up heading the second row from Colin Edwards and Randy de Puniet.

Portugal at least usually has good weather, and race day was no exception. Warmup was dominated by Stoner, back to playing headgames it seems, while Pedrosa languished in fourth.

Jorge Lorenzo with his tribute to the moon landings. Fast as an Apollo rocket as well...But warmup means nothing at all when the lights go out. And from the off it was Lorenzo who made the running. Pedrosa got off like a scalded cat as usual but couldn't stop the Yamaha rider taking the lead and staying there until the chequered flag. Pedrosa made a valiant effort but was unable to keep the Ducati of Casey Stoner behind him for more than three laps. But he was able to stay comfortably in front of Rossi, who was plagued with rear grip problems and, despite his undoubted talent and hunger to win, ended up off the podium for the first time ever at Estoril.

Now that may seem like a fairly cursory race report - nothing exciting in there. And that's because, in truth, it was a pretty unexciting race, In fact, it was boring and processional, with yawning great gaps between the riders and precious little actual racing after the second lap.

We're off to Phillip Island next. Should be good as both Lorenzo and Rossi rate it as their favourite circuit. Lorenzo has the gap back down to less than a race win, so it's almost certain that unless something terrible happens in Australia this championship will go all the way to the wire. There are seventy five points on offer still. Rossi, even is he doesn't finish another race, can't possibl finish below second place. Pedrosa and Stoner could still beat Lorenzo for second but that would guarantee Rossi the title again. And Dovizioso and Edwards are still close enough to threaten Stoner and Pedrosa if anything goes wrong. Down at the other end, a six point boost over his rivals would see Toseland get into the top ten before he leaves for Superbikes. So it's still wide open - let's just hope it stays interesting...


Lorenzo is so far ahead that he's just crossed the line with his hand off the throttle...Estoril MotoGP Results

1. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha)
2. Casey Stoner (Ducati)
3. Dani Pedrosa (Honda)
4. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha)
5. Colin Edwards (Yamaha)
6. Toni Elias (Honda)
7. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda)
8. Nicky Hayden (Ducati)
9. James Toseland (Yamaha)
10. Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki)

MotoGP standings (after fourteen rounds)

1. Valentino Rossi 250
2. Jorge Lorenzo 232
3. Dani Pedrosa 173
4. Casey Stoner 170
5. Andrea Dovizioso 142
6. Colin Edwards 134
7. Loris Capirossi 97
8. Randy de Puniet 93
9. Marco Melandri 91
10. Toni Elias 90




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