Estoril Moto GP – the plot thickens

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estoril_lorenzo_leading.jpg

Lorenzo gets an early lead over Pedrosa and Stoner
photo: motogp.com

The “aliens” were firmly in charge at the Moto GP race in Estoril this
past weekend, as Jorge Lorenzo led Casey Stoner, Dani Pedrosa, and Valentino
Rossi across the line.

Several races ago, as these four clearly put their collective
stamp on the 2009 season, Marco Melandri was heard to mutter that the four of
them must be aliens, they were so much faster than everyone else. The quip has
stuck.

The big news on the weekend was the return of Casey Stoner, who’s been
gone for two months, missing three races in an attempt to discover the cause of
the mysterious illness that’s been affecting him this season. You’d never have
known he was away, however, as he exploded back onto the scene as naturally as
if he’d been riding every day.

The race itself was something of a snooze, actually. Jorge Lorenzo took
his Fiat Yamaha to fastest lap in every practice and qualifying session, left
from the pole and disappeared into the distance. The following riders spread
out relatively quickly, once Stoner dispatched Pedrosa from second, and that
was that.

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Rossi just couldn’t get ahead.
photo: motogp.com 

As usual, there was action farther back in the field. Mika Kallio
looked set for a top five finish on his satellite Pramac Ducati until he
crashed unhurt, while Randy de Puniet (of all things) had a boot unzip and wasted a
couple of laps trying to fix it, dropping to the end of the field then riding
like a fiend to nearly get back into the top 10.

Colin Edwards had an excellent
if lonely ride to fifth on the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, while Andrea Dovizioso on
the second factory Repsol Honda was mired in mid-field, barely beating the
Ducati of Nicky Hayden, who once again found that his wayward bike for some
mysterious reason felt totally different in the race than it had in practice.

The Fiat Yamaha team bikes were painted in a trick silver and white
paint job to promote Fiat’s new Punto model, and Jorge Lorenzo went one better
with a matching set of leathers designed to look like a space suit, and a
helmet painted like Neil Armstrong’s in honour of the first visit to the moon
40 years ago.

estoril_lorenzo_floating.jpg

Lorenzo floats off the podium and into the mothership … adding to the rumours.
photo: motogp.com 

Lorenzo even came up onto the podium wearing the helmet, and
walking in slow-motion in not a bad imitation of a low-gravity walk. I guess it helps to be an alien.

Rossi, who suffered rear traction problems all weekend and for once was
never in the hunt, wasn’t amused at his team-mate’s antics, on top of his race
domination. The score narrowed Rossi’s lead in the championship hunt to only 18
points – “Yes, the championship is less impossible now!” grinned Lorenzo – with
three races left on the calendar.

The next event is at the superb Philip Island track in Australia
October 18. Current standings are:

1. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Fiat Yamaha, 250 points; 2. Jorge Lorenzo,
Spain, Fiat Yamaha, 232; 3. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 173; 4. Casey
Stoner, Australia, Marlboro Ducati, 170; 5. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Repsol
Honda, 142; 6. Colin Edwards, USA, Tech 3 Yamaha, 134; 7. Loris Capirossi, Italy,
Rizla Suzuki, 97; 8. Randy de Puniet, France, LCR Honda, 93; 9. Marco Melandri,
Italy, Hayate Kawasaki, 91; 10. (tie) Tony Elias, Spain, Gresini Honda and
Chris Vermeulen, Australia, Rizla Suzuki, 90.

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