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Estoril circuit details

Estoril circuit details

The venue for this weekend's bwin.com Grande Premio de Portugal, the Fernada Pires da Silva Circuit - more commonly known as Estoril - was constructed in 1972 and significantly modified in 1994.

The venue for this weekend's bwin.com Grande Premio de Portugal, the Fernada Pires da Silva Circuit - more commonly known as Estoril - was constructed in 1972 and significantly modified in 1994.

That modification in the mid-1990s saw the birth of the famous "Variante" chicane which is now one of the slowest corners in the MotoGP World Championship.

Indeed, perhaps the most notable aspect of Estoril is the difference in velocity between the slowest corner - taken at under 60 km/h - and at the end of the kilometre-long main straight, where speeds of more than 325 km/h were reached on 990cc machinery.

This huge speed variation makes the task of setting the gear ratios absolutely critical because teams have to avoid having jumps in the gears which are too great – in order to prevent engine revs falling outside the ideal power delivery zone. As well as the "Variante" corner, first gear is also used in three other corners so it is vital to make the right choice when setting the gear ratios.

Apart from the four corners taken in first gear, there are six other relatively slow corners taken in second. As a result, Estoril is in fact the circuit with the slowest average lap speed in the MotoGP World Championship - 156.4 km/h (set by Valentino Rossi in taking pole in 2006).

Estoril is also one of the most difficult circuits at which to find the right suspension settings. The front suspension is subject to heavy braking at the end of the start/finish straight and also in the straight leading onto the "Parabolica Interior" corner. It is therefore necessary to fit hard springs, although the circuit is quite bumpy and these hard springs do not absorb the bumps perfectly, which often pushes the bike off the racing line.

The same problem is apparent in the rear suspension. On the one hand there is a section of esses and also a corner taken in fifth gear at more than 230 km/h, which in normal circumstances would mean fitting hard springs to make the rear more rigid. But the lack of grip on the track and the bumpy surface means teams must choose a softer suspension to reach a compromise.

Another important factor at Estoril is tyre choice. The track layout has ten right-hand corners and only four left-handers which means that the tyres used are made of two or even three different rubber compounds.

On the right side there should be a hard compound to withstand the force exerted through the tyre on the right hand corners, including the "Parabolica" corner leading onto the main straight which causes heavy tyre-wear due to its length and the fact that the throttle is opened early in the corner when the bike is still at an angle.

For the left side of the tyre the compound used should be softer to ensure good levels of grip even when the tyre is relatively cold, as is the case at this circuit.

The Portuguese Grand Prix, which has been run on several seasons towards the end of the championship in September, is often affected by adverse climatic conditions with the presence of rain and wind due to the proximity of the Atlantic coast.

The track was partially resurfaced ahead of last year's World Championship visit in order to improve grip, with the relaying of asphalt on the first section of the track, and also on the uphill chicane, where exit was also widened.

Follow the video link on the left for a closer look at Estoril.

Tags:
MotoGP, 2007

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