There was plenty going on ahead of the return to action at the bwin.com Grande Prémio de Portugal on Thursday, with Casey Stoner back in the MotoGP paddock after a three round break due to illness and with Monster Yamaha Tech 3 announcing their all- American line-up of Ben Spies and Colin Edwards for 2010.
Stoner has missed the last three races at Brno, Indianapolis and Misano as he remained in his native Australia for several weeks in order to fully recover from the fatigue and stomach problems which had hindered him since the Barcelona race in June.
Ahead of his comeback at Estoril he stated, “It has been very difficult. During this period we did everything we could, seeing the right doctors, being on the right diet, to try and increase levels which blood tests showed I was low on. So now we have to see what I can do this weekend and how I can perform. Myself, all the team, all the mechanics, everyone was putting in 100% effort but we could not make it in the final stages of races. Hopefully now we can be competitive again, because I have been away from my bike for too long and I have missed it.”
Meanwhile, Tech 3 boss Herve Poncharal announced on Thursday that Edwards will remain with the team for a third season in 2010, with Spies coming into MotoGP to join his fellow American on the competitive satellite Yamaha M1.
Poncharal remarked, “Ben has had an incredible year this year in his championship, as a rookie. His ultimate goal, like most high level riders was to come to MotoGP, which is the top championship, so we are very proud to have him. Colin staying with us is great news too as he has brought so much to the team, the best results we have ever had, like his superb second position this season at Donington.”
Taking centre stage in the official pre-event press conference, however, was current World Champion Valentino Rossi, who said of Spies’ imminent arrival, “I think he has made the right decision to come at this time. He is still quite young and he has gained extra experience this year, so I expect him to be another great rival for next season.”
On the more pressing challenge of retaining the MotoGP title over the forthcoming and concluding four rounds of the year Rossi added, “Now is the crucial moment when the championship will be decided, as we have four races in a short period of time. There are some good tracks ahead of us, Estoril, Phillip Island and Sepang are ok for me and 30 points is a nice advantage, but we have to stay focused because we have a strong rival and we will try to stay on the podium.”
The racewinner last year in Portugal, as he tasted MotoGP victory for the first time, Rossi’s team-mate and current closest challenger Jorge Lorenzo previewed the weekend saying, “Last year was a big surprise for me, it left a big impression on me and it was a huge day in my career. But now it is a very different situation, that was at the beginning of the year and this time we are close to the end of the championship. I also now have different tyres, so it is like starting from zero this weekend, but I am confident.”
Free practice at the bwin.com Grande Premio de Portugal commences on Friday (2nd October) at 12.40pm local time for the 125cc riders, 1.55pm for the MotoGP class and 3.10pm for the 250cc category.