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Spanish support to push on Pedrosa in Portugal

Spanish support to push on Pedrosa in Portugal

Spanish support to push on Pedrosa in Portugal

Dani Pedrosa arrives in Portugal this weekend backed by a huge army of support from across the Spanish border as he looks to extend a 25 point cushion at the top of the standings. Pedrosa, who is aiming to become the second youngest ever World Champion behind Loris Capirossi, celebrates his 18th birthday later this month and another maximum points haul would be the ideal gift to take away to the ‘flyaway' races in Brazil, Japan, Malaysia and Australia.

The Spanish youngster set pole position here last year before crashing out of the wet race, remounting to finish tenth, and will be confident of another top performance after his crushing defeat of closest challenger Stefano Perugini in the last round at Brno.

The experienced Perugini knows he must react this weekend and improve on a dismal record from his previous two visits to Estoril which saw him crash out last year and retire with mechanical problems in 2001. However, the Italian is hitting the sort of consistency which will support a strong title challenge, after taking podium finishes at each of the last three races.

Reigning World Champion Arnaud Vincent returns to action this weekend after being signed up by Sterilgarda Racing to replace Youichi Ui. Whilst Vincent, who was sacked last month by KTM, will be back on an Aprilia for the first time since winning his title at Valencia last November, the future is uncertain for Japanese veteran Ui, who will try to finalise a new ride before qualifying begins on Friday.

Vincent's replacement at KTM, Mika Kallio, should be back to full fitness after riding superbly to fourth place with a broken thumb at Brno. Kallio's heroic effort was a best ever result for the Austrian factory and also the best effort from a Finnish rider since Johnny Wickstrom finished fourth at Donington in 1987. Australian youngster Casey Stoner returns to action this weekend after missing the Brno race with a broken collarbone and scaphoid. Stoner underwent an operation in San Marino two weeks ago and, although not fully fit, claims he now feels strong enough to ride.

Elsewhere, Steve Jenkner heads to Estoril looking to revitalise his season with a first podium finish since his maiden victory at Assen in June. The German has fallen out of title contention after failing to score any points at all from the last three races and now lies sixth in the championship, 64 points adrift of series leader Pedrosa.

125cc, 2003, Grande Premio Marlboro de Portugal, Dani Pedrosa

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