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MotoGP drama continues at GP de Portugal

MotoGP drama continues at GP de Portugal

MotoGP drama continues at GP de Portugal

The dramatic start to the MotoGP World Championship at Jerez last Sunday enters its second chapter after a break of just four days as the Grande Premio de Portugal gets underway with the first free practice session at Estoril on Friday morning.

The battle for honours between Valentino Rossi and Sete Gibernau at the opening round in Spain has been a hot topic of conversation since the dust settled on their last-corner collision, with the latest twist coming on Monday night when Gibernau's team announced that their rider's participation in this weekend's event is in doubt. A medical report compiled by doctors in his hometown of Barcelona has revealed a ‘capsular injury to the joint linking his upper arm and shoulder blade', damage that is reportedly being treated with an intensive course of physiotherapy, anti-inflammatory medication and daily ultrasound treatment.

Should Gibernau recover in time for the sixth consecutive Grand Prix to be held at Estoril there promises to be another titanic struggle for supremacy between himself and Rossi, the top two riders over the past two seasons of MotoGP. The sparks will begin to fly in Thursday's pre-event press conference, when the riders will come face-to-face for the first time since the tense post-race ceremonies in Spain.

The race also presents an opportunity for several other riders to re-establish their title credentials after they were all blown away by the incredible lap record pace set by Rossi and Gibernau at Jerez. Nicky Hayden crashed out of third place as he pushed to stay in touch, leaving Marco Melandri to complete the podium, whilst other expected challengers such as Alex Barros, Max Biaggi and Colin Edwards were all over 20 seconds behind.

However, the tight and twisty nature of the Estoril circuit presents a completely new challenge to the teams and riders, who will be hoping that the high winds and cool springtime temperatures experienced at Jerez are tempered at Estoril in spite of its location on the Atlantic west coast of Portugal.

Whilst the statistics lie heavily in favour of Rossi, who has taken victory on each of the last four visits to Estoril, Makoto Tamada pushed him close last season and will look for a significant improvement on his season-opening result of eighth place at Jerez on the Honda. Meanwhile, Shinya Nakano will be looking to build on an excellent top five debut for the 2005 version Kawasaki, whilst Troy Bayliss will be flying high on confidence after taking sixth in his first appearance for Honda after a difficult preseason.

Several other riders are battling for fitness ahead of this weekend's event, with Ducati pair Carlos Checa and Loris Capirossi having raced with shoulder and ankle injuries respectively at Jerez whilst Shane Byrne suffered skin loss on his hands and arms after a freak scooter crash in the paddock on Sunday evening.


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