Repsol Honda riders Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso finished in second and sixth places this afternoon as the first practice session for the Grand Prix of Portugal took place at Estoril. After a four-week break since the last MotoGP outing, the factory Honda pair and their pit crews quickly blew away the cobwebs and got down to the serious business of tuning their machines to the demands of the tight and bumpy 4.182km (0.613-mile) circuit.
Pedrosa has finished second in the race here for the previous two years, and that’s where the Spaniard ended up today after spending significant time at the top of the standings in the one-hour practice period. Looking confident aboard his RC212V, his fastest lap was just one tenth of a second outside the race lap record set last year. Pedrosa, who turned 24 on Tuesday, was only pipped for top spot today by fellow countryman Jorge Lorenzo and is confident for tomorrow’s practice and qualifying sessions.
On the other side of the Repsol Honda garage, Dovizioso wasn’t far behind his team-mate on a day that saw the riders enjoy warmer temperatures and higher levels of grip than they’ve experienced on several previous visits to Estoril. The 23-year-old Italian is targeting an improved feeling from the rear of his machine and, once that’s achieved, he’s buoyant about his chances of closing in further on the lead riders ahead of Sunday’s 28-lap race.
DANI PEDROSA – 2nd – 1m 37.544s
“That was a good first session and I’m happy with how we’ve started our Estoril weekend. We were fast pretty much from the outset and the feeling from the machine was good straight away. Normally when we visit this circuit earlier in the season it’s cold and the grip is not very good, but today the track temperature was high and the Bridgestone tyres were working well, which allowed me to set fast lap times that were also quite consistent. Of course it’s a bumpy circuit, but we know this is going to be the case so you come here prepared for that – it’s not a big problem. Braking is very important at this circuit and it can make a big difference in the race because you need to be able to overtake into the slow corners at the end of the straights. We can improve on this area and we’ll continue to work on the set-up tomorrow. Overall, I’m pleased with our start to the weekend.”
ANDREA DOVIZIOSO – 6th – 1m 38.244s
“It’s really good to get out on track again because it’s been more than a three week-break since Misano. It actually takes a little while to get back into the groove after this time away but I’m pretty confident that we can have a good race here. This afternoon we struggled a little bit with the rear of the machine, which meant my ultimate lap time wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be, so this is the area we’re going to be focusing on to find some improvements. The tight, slow corners at this track together with the bumps seem to amplify the issue because the rear is working a lot. Still, this means we have the potential to close on the riders in front, and that’s what we’ll be gunning for in tomorrow’s practice and qualifying sessions.”
KAZUHIKO YAMANO – REPSOL HONDA TEAM MANAGER
“It’s been quite a long break since the last race at Misano and the Repsol Honda Team has not been standing still. We’ve continued to work very hard in order to close in on our rivals in the final four races of the season. It was a positive start to the weekend for us in the session this afternoon and Dani was at, or very close to, the front for the whole practice. Andrea also worked well with his team and there is more to come from him too I’m sure. It’s a bumpy surface here and so achieving the optimum machine set-up takes some time. With that in mind, we should be able to make further progress tomorrow.”