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Repsol Honda Team’s Casey Stoner made it two wins in a row to take the lead in the MotoGP™ championship with victory at the Grande Prémio de Portugal Circuito Estoril.
The Repsol Honda Team pair of Dani Pedrosa and Stoner gave the crowd action from the start, as the two touched fairings going into turn one, with Stoner taking the lead into turn two. Factory Yamaha Team’s Jorge Lorenzo took full advantage of this to sneak into second to hunt down the Australian, who was soon pulling out a gap.
Lorenzo’s teammate Spies, who had been in fourth, ran wide early on to drop back down the order into seventh, with Ducati Team’s Valentino Rossi on his tail. Meanwhile, four laps in, Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Andrea Dovizioso pushed past his teammate Cal Crutchlow to go into fourth place behind Pedrosa.
With 21 laps to go, Lorenzo and Pedrosa were chipping away at Stoner’s lead, as they closed the gap to just under one second. On the same lap, Crutchlow ran wide in the first turn whilst trying to outbreak his Italian teammate, yet managed to retain his position, as the pair continued their lonely battle for fourth.
With 16 laps to go Speed Master’s CRT entry Mattia Pasini crashed out as he lost the front of his ART machine, while at the same time Avintia Blusens’ Iván Silva retired after suffering too much pain from his warm-up crash.
At the halfway point of the race, Lorenzo had closed in on Stoner, while his Yamaha teammate made it past LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl to take eighth. Avintia Blusens’ day went from bad to worse, as Yonny Hernandez crashed out with 11 laps to go, yet walking away unscathed.
Paul Bird Motorsport’s difficult start to the season also continued, as Briton James Ellison pulled into the pits nine laps before the end with a mechanical issue on his ART bike. Cardion AB Racing´s Karel Abraham suffered a crash five laps from the end, making this the third Grand Prix in succession he has not been able to finish.
With the battle between the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 pair hotting up towards the end, Crutchlow was desperate to get past the Italian, but once again forced his bike off track. Further down the field, Bradl had re-taken Spies for eighth, though the American soon fought back.
Three laps before the end, just as Lorenzo seemed to be catching Stoner, the Australian put the hammer down to open the gap to more than a second once more. At the end it was Stoner who took the checker flag in front of Lorenzo and his Repsol teammate Pedrosa. Stoner has now won a race at every single track on the MotoGP calendar in the premier-class.
Andrea Dovizioso held off the late charge from Crutchlow to take fourth, finishing in front of his teammate for the first time this season. San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista put in a solid performance as he held sixth position from start to finish, in what was a lonely race for the Spaniard. Valentino Rossi claimed his best finish of the season in seventh, beating Yamaha’s Ben Spies, who did not manage to recover from a difficult start to the race. LCR’s Stefan Bradl finished in ninth, whilst Pramac Racing’s Héctor Barberá rounded out the top ten. Power Electronics Aspar’s Espargaró took top CRT spot for a second race in succession.
The MotoGP grid will be out on track at Estoril tomorrow morning at 10am local time for the first in-season test of the 2012 MotoGP World Championship.
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