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07/05/2012 AFTER ESTORIL

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Valentino's best race of 2012 coincided with Ducati's worst overall performance as the competition builds its lead with every race. Since last year, both Honda and Yamaha are now over 20 seconds quicker over full race length while the Desmosedici appears to be making little progress. Rossi finished seventh, 26 seconds behind the winner Stoner and four places ahead of his team mate Nicky Hayden who was plagued by electronic problems and finished 1 minute behind the race winner. Since the practice sessions were finally not bothered by the weather conditions, the nine times world champion managed to find a better setting and therefore make a good start. In its present condition however, the Ducati doesn't allow for much more with the gap at nearly 1 second per lap. All hopes of closing the distance between the Hondas and Yamahas now lie in the new solutions the team tested on Monday in Estoril.

 

Looking at just the data, the third round of the world championship may have appeared dull with Casey securing first position before the third corner and staying there until the chequered flag. In reality though it was a very fast, hard-fought race with the three main contenders lapping faster than they did in practice. By the half way stage, Lorenzo had caught up with Stoner and seemed to be in the hunt but the Australian managed to pull away in the last few laps to leave the Spaniard 1.4 seconds behind. Pedrosa in third was fast but too far behind the leaders to be in with a chance of a win. Stoner now leads the championship with Lorenzo just 1 point behind.

 

Dovizioso finished in a good fourth position ahead of his team mate, at last, and Bautista came home sixth, ahead of Valentino. Stefan Bradl from Germany had a good race where both his competitive nature and natural style were on full display as he fought with Rossi and Spies only to lose out to the Texan at the finishing line. General opinion is that the 2011 Moto2 champion has all that it takes to get to the top and he is making progress in leaps and bounds. Mattia Pasini was unlucky to crash out on the sixteenth lap and Danilo Petrucci scored 1 point in fifteenth place behind Pirro. Petrucci certainly didn't deserve the embarrassment of being lapped by the leaders but his Ioda is slow and the straights at Estoril are too long.

 

In Moto2, we saw Pol Espargaro riding aggressively as he tried everything, especially in the last lap, to take the lead from his fellow countryman Marquez. The rivalry between them is becoming more intense and public opinion is split. We have the style and cunning of Marc against the pluck and courage of Pol. On the last lap, Espargaro ran deep at the hairpin and was able to recover but he had to slow down and cruised to the flag in front of Luthi, Zarco and Iannone in that order. It was a shame for Andrea who, until half way, was up among the front-runners. Iannone was unlucky to go off the track and fell back into seventh place after which he made a tremendous fight-back to catch Zarco who was fourth. Had there been one more lap, he would have passed him with ease. Simone Corsi too was unlucky after falling seven laps from the finish when he was in ninth place and making good progress.

 

No champagne for Romano Fenati in Moto3. Although the rider from Ascoli started from the second row of the grid, he didn't make a great start and even though his FTR Honda wasn't among the fastest down the straights, he performed miracles. At the half way stage, he appeared to be back in the race until a run in with Faubel dropped him to eleventh place and unfortunately, during yet another comeback, he came off again. A shame but no doubt Romano will make up for it next time. In the meantime we saw a rejuvenated Niccolò Antonelli; the Team Gresini rider rode superbly to finish sixth in the slipstream of Vazquez. Luis Salom put in a brilliant lap to finish on the podium in third place after a spectacular duel with Khairuddin, the real surprise of the race, who finished fourth. Alessandro Tonucci finished in eighteenth place ahead of Schroetter, Luigi Morciano finished twenty-fourth and Danny Webb was forced to retire with an engine stoppage. It all kicks off again in France in a fortnight on 20 May at the Le Mans Bugatti circuit.