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MotoGP set for Portugal with titles on the line

MotoGP set for Portugal with titles on the line

MotoGP set for Portugal with titles on the line

The MotoGP World Championship returns to Europe on October 15th for the penultimate race of the season, the bwin.com Grande Premio de Portugal. As the season draws to a close, the stakes are ever higher for the title contenders, who could either take the championship or set the scene for a dramatic finale at the end of the month in Valencia.

All eyes are on the top two in the premier class, as Nicky Hayden hangs on to the lead in the classification by 12 points. Closest challenger Valentino Rossi has been chipping away at the American's advantage in recent races, whilst Hayden himself has been experiencing something of a dip in form.

Amidst Rossi's spectacular comeback and some of the most exciting races of the 2006 season, the fact that the Kentucky Kid could clinch his first world title in just a few days time has almost been overlooked. Depending on a number of mathematical eventualities, some more plausible than others, Hayden could leave the Estoril Circuit on October 15th as the final 990cc World Champion with a race to spare. The standout eventuality is simple though: If Hayden wins in Portugal and Rossi is unable to finish higher than fifth, then the 2006 MotoGP title will be heading to American soil.

Estoril is one of the Hayden's least successful circuits, having failed to finish in the top six in his two previous visits to the track. He missed the 2004 race through injury. On the other hand, Rossi has been on the podium on each of his six races in Portugal, four of those times on the highest step.

In third place overall, Fortuna Honda's Marco Melandri is still in with a mathematical chance of becoming World Champion. However, one of the few riders to win three races this season has a much more realistic option of finishing in either second or third, and a win at Estoril would do his chances no harm at all.

Loris Capirossi lies four points behind Melandri, and is celebrating his best ever MotoGP season. The Italian was the winner of the last round in Japan, and his third place finish in Portugal back in 2003 is the best ever result for a Ducati rider at the track.

Recently-crowned Rookie Of The Year Dani Pedrosa rounds off the tightly-packed bunch of mathematical title contenders, three points behind Capirossi.

The last two races of the season will see the usual line-up joined by the Ilmor team, a new outfit run by Mario Illien and counting Garry McCoy as their rider. Ilmor are looking to have their team on the grid for the entire 2007 season, and the next two races will be the ideal preparation for the task ahead.

Fortuna Aprilia's Jorge Lorenzo heads to Portugal 27 points ahead of nearest rival Andrea Dovizioso in the 250cc World Championship, and could win the title at the Estoril Circuit by finishing in front of the Italian on the podium, or by finishing one place behind him if Dovizioso can only manage at most a fourth place.

Of the 15 races undertaken this season, Lorenzo has already taken eight victories, equalling the highest number of wins achieved by a Spanish rider in the 250cc class in a single year. The record was set last year by Dani Pedrosa.

Still waiting for a first victory is Alex de Angelis, riding for the Master MVA Aspar team. The San Marino rider currently lies third in the classification, ahead of winner at his home race last time out Hiroshi Aoyama and Roberto Locatelli, this year's best privateer. Yuki Takahashi rounds off the top six.

The 125cc title is the only one to be already wrapped up before the penultimate race of 2006. Alvaro Bautista now sets his sights on a number of records, and needs just one more podium to achieve the most rostrum finishes in a single season. Mika Kallio's win in Japan all but secures him second place in the championship for the second consecutive season, with a 31 point advantage over Mattia Pasini.

Hector Faubel, Sergio Gadea and Lukas Pesek are the other three riders in the top six, ahead of 2005 World Champion and newly confirmed 250cc rider Thomas Luthi.

Situated on the Atlantic coast of Portugal, 28km from capital city Lisbon, the Estoril circuit was used as a MotoGP venue for the first time in 2000. Built in 1972 by Fernanda Pires da Silva the circuit was used mainly for European F2 races in the seventies and after major redevelopment in the early eighties it staged its first Formula 1 Grand Prix in 1984. One of the trickiest tracks on the GP calendar, Estoril combines long, constant radius corners with heavy braking zones, bumpy straights and a difficult chicane which was added to the back section in 1994. Its geographical position means that weather can be unpredictable, although its generally warm, dry nature makes it a regular choice for pre-season testing sessions.

The bwin.com Grande Premio de Portugal takes place on October 15th, with practices starting on the Friday before.

Tags:
MotoGP, 2006, bwin.com GRANDE PREMIO DE PORTUGAL

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