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Excitement starts early at Estoril

Excitement starts early at Estoril

Excitement starts early at Estoril

The main protagonists of the MotoGP World Championship resumed business at the Estoril circuit in Portugal this afternoon in more amicable fashion than they had separated at Jerez on Sunday, with Valentino Rossi making a veiled apology to his rival Sete Gibernau for the shoulder injury caused when the pair clashed in the final corner of the opening round of the new season.

Whilst Gibernau missed the pre-event press conference for the Grande Premio de Portugal this afternoon as he continues to undergo treatment on an old tendon problem that flared up in the controversial incident, the Italian moved to cool the tension that has mounted in the short space of time between the two events.

"I've watched the incident on television and you can see my brake hits his shoulder," reflected Rossi, who went on to take victory as Gibernau ran into the gravel before clinching second. "At the time I didn't understand why he was hurt because it was a slow corner and the contact was very soft, but I didn't realise he has had operations on this injury in the past. I am sorry if he is not 100% but for sure this will be another great battle."

Looking ahead to this weekend's race, at a circuit where Rossi has taken victory for the past four consecutive seasons, the reigning World Champion commented: "Estoril is a hard track, a technical track, and the unpredictable weather always makes it difficult. The track is tight, which can suit the Yamaha, and last year I had a good race and was able to escape. Hopefully the weather stays good and we'll see what happens."

Whilst Marco Melandri lies third in the championship after scoring a debut podium for Honda at Jerez, perhaps the biggest danger to the leading pair this weekend comes from Alex Barros. With the Grande Premio de Portugal being rescheduled to replace his cancelled home event in Rio de Janeiro, the Brazilian is being backed by a group of travelling supporters who have made their way from South America to Europe to cheer their hero.

"We did an exhibition with the bikes in Estoril yesterday and I was surprised by how many Brazilians were there – a lot of them had also been in Jerez," said Barros, who was joined at the spectacular event by Alex Hofmann, Makoto Tamada, Casey Stoner, Hector Barberá, Mika Kallio and Pablo Nieto. "Hopefully I can give them something to celebrate this Sunday because I was not happy with fourth place at Jerez and I think if I can find half a second per lap this weekend I can fight with Valentino and Sete."

Wednesday's exhibition, which took place outside the famous Estoril Casino, proved to be a less rewarding occasion for Hofmann, who dropped his Kawasaki at less than 40km/h in a freak accident and hurt his wrist. X-rays have today revealed that the German has a cracked scaphoid and his participation in the Grand Prix is currently in doubt.


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