High winds and heavy rain lashed the Portuguese Estoril track up until race morning, giving no chance for any dry practice or set-up. It was so bad that qualifying was actually cancelled for all three classes (Moto GP, Moto 2, and 125), grid times being assigned based on the best times from all three (very) wet practice sessions.
In the event, the rain went away for the race, so although there were a few damp patches and traction was far from ideal, everyone was scrambling to guess at dry settings.
World champion elect Jorge Lorenzo’s team set up his bike the way it was last year, when he took pole and won, and come half-way he passed Valentino Rossi and simply motored off into the distance.
He had a comfortable eight second margin at the end, but Rossi said, “Eight seconds is not the real gap. When Jorge overtake me, he arrived very fast. I tried to stay with him, for two or three laps, I make my best lap, I didn’t give up a lot, but after, I see that is impossible to stay with him.”
The first few laps were entertaining, with Lorenzo, Rossi, Nicky Hayden, Andrea Dovizioso, and Casey Stoner all apparently in with a shout. Hayden actually led for a lap and a bit – “Over the first few laps the bike worked really well, I felt good and I even managed to lead the race which hasn’t happened for a while!” – before first Lorenzo and then Rossi and Stoner barged past.
Stoner crashed almost immediately after, keeping intact his dubious recent form of winning or binning. Curiously, he said after the race that he lost the front, but it was clear that it was the rear that went way out before flicking the Aussie into the gravel trap.
Someone who might have been in the mix didn’t start the race; Ben Spies had a big high-side on the second of two sighting laps and landed hard, painfully dislocating his left ankle. It’s not certain that he’ll be able to do the final race at Valencia in Spain next weekend.
After Stoner’s crash, Lorenzo chased down Rossi, passed easily, and simply vanished. Rossi also had a lonely race, with Hayden several seconds back. Things stayed that way until the last few laps, when the battle for the last podium spot heated up.
Dovizioso and Marco Simoncelli had a great race and caught up to Hayden, eventually passing him, while Randy de Puniet and Colin Edwards were just behind.
Dovi and Simoncelli hammered on each other until the last corner, when Dovizioso got a better drive to the flag, beating his fellow Italian by a wheel-width, no more.
Dani Pedrosa ran the race in spite of his broken and plated collarbone, and was in the top six until late in the contest, when he began running wide as his strength clearly faded.
“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. (But) From the third lap I lost strength in my left arm and I couldn’t really feel it … with 10 laps to go I couldn’t keep pushing and I dropped back quite a lot.”
Pedrosa is still in second place in the championship, but Rossi is only 19 points behind and is thinking about taking that spot.
Moto GP standings after 17 of 18 races:
1. Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Fiat Yamaha, 358 points (world champion elect);
2. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 236;
3. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Fiat Yamaha, 217;
4. Casey Stoner, Australia, Marlboro Ducati, 205;
5. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Repsol Honda, 195;
6. TIE, Ben Spies, U.S.A., Tech 3 Yamaha and Nicky Hayden, U.S.A., Marlboro Ducati, 163;
8. Marco Simoncelli, Italy, San Carlo Gresini Honda, 115;
9. Randy de Puniet, France, LCR Honda, 110;
10. Marco Melandri, Italy, San Carlo Gresini Honda, 100.
Next and final race, Valencia, Spain, November 7.