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MotoGP sails into Portugal for round eleven

MotoGP sails into Portugal for round eleven

MotoGP sails into Portugal for round eleven

The MotoGP World Championship docked on the westernmost point of Europe today as the teams and riders arrived at the coastal town of Estoril for the Grande Premio Marlboro de Portugal. Title contender Sete Gibernau was in relaxed mood as he took a cruise around the nearby port harbour of Alcantara with fellow MotoGP riders Marco Melandri, Alex Barros and Makoto Tamada, planning his latest assault on series leader Valentino Rossi. The pair have been almost inseparable over the past two months, even meeting up on holiday in Ibiza between two stunning races which have seen them split by less than one tenth of a second. Round nine of sixteen at the Sachsenring in July went the way of the Spaniard, but the Italian re-established his authority and a 34-point lead in the championship with victory at Brno in round ten. The World Champion today recognised the importance of this weekend, the final round in Europe before four ‘flyaway' races in Brazil, Japan, Malaysia and Australia.

"I have enjoyed the holiday but now it is time to go back to work," said Rossi, who has reverted to his natural brown hair colour after dyeing it bright red for Brno. "There are some big races coming up at tracks I like and I am ready – or at least I hope I am! The three ‘flyaway' races will be hard for everybody, so it is important to leave here with a good result. Estoril is not particularly one of my favourite tracks but I have had some good races here – especially in 2001 when I won on the 500 and again last year in the bad weather. Above all I am hoping for good weather this weekend. The wind is always a problem here, but if it stays dry then that will be okay."

Late summer sunshine warmed the Portuguese circuit this afternoon with temperatures around 28ºC and positive forecasts providing hope of dry conditions throughout the weekend. However, it is the circuit's close proximity to the harsh Atlantic ocean that makes such forecasts unpredictable and track conditions changeable, as former 250cc World Champion Olivier Jacque explained: "The sea breeze brings in a film of humidity and salt which greases the surface of the track and makes it very slippery. This is particularly problematic in the first couple of sessions, before the bikes wear out a dry line. The wind picks up at about 2pm – just in time for the race! When I won the 250cc race here in 2000 the wind was so strong that my bike was bending as I went down the straight, but hopefully with the heavier four-stroke it won't be so bad."

MotoGP, 2003, Grande Premio Marlboro de Portugal

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