Álvaro Bautista gave another courageous performance on his Rizla Suzuki GSV-R at Estoril today to not only finish the Portuguese Grand Prix, but to also score points and show that he had come to race and not just finish the 28-laps.
Bautista got a great start from 15th on the grid and by the end of the first lap had moved into 12th place, but he was forced to take avoiding action on the second lap as another rider fell in front of him. Karel Abraham crashed his Ducati and although Bautista tried to take a different line to miss him, the Suzuki star was forced out wide and into the gravel. Bautista stayed on-board and re-joined the race, but had lost valuable time and was too far behind the pack to continue his assault. As the race wore on Bautista produced consistent laps that would have seen him compete in the top-10, but because of the earlier incident he was forced to ride a lonely race with only the clock to compete against and his determination to finish the race. He eventually crossed the line in 13th place and, although he was suffering from the injury he sustained at Qatar, he was very pleased to finish his first Grand Prix of 2011.
Overnight rain again made this morning's warm-up quite difficult, but fortunately the storm clouds stayed away from the race and conditions improved in time for the start. Today's event was watched by just over 40,000 people at trackside and they saw Spaniard Dani Pedrosa on a Honda take his first victory of the season, with current championship leader Jorge Lorenzo second.
Rizla Suzuki and Bautista will now stay at Estoril for a day of testing, where they will be joined by Factory test rider Nobuatsu Aoki. The team will next be in race action at the historical Le Mans circuit in France on Sunday 15th May, where Bautista will certainly be looking to improve on this weekend's performance as his healing process continues and his race fitness returns.
"I have some mixed emotions today. I am happy because I made the target of finishing the race, but after a decent start and getting in to a good position early on, I am really disappointed that I had to run off the track because Abraham crashed in front of me. I tried to take a different line, but I had to go into the gravel and I lost too much time from the main group. I did the rest of the race alone and ok, we finished, but I would have liked to have battled with other riders. I think it was possible to fight with Toni, Loris and Randy today - or maybe even better! The first target was to finish the race, so we have to be happy about that and now I have 14 days to improve the strength and power in my leg and go to Le Mans in a much better condition than I came here. My body and my mind are now more prepared for racing, so I am really looking forward to the next race.
"I want to say a big thank-you to all the team and to everyone that supported me during the last month. If I can make this effort to be here and finish this race, part of what I did was because all of them believed in me all the time. I also want to say a very Happy Mother's Day to all the Mums in Spain, especially my own!"
Paul Denning – Team Manager:
"Today is the same very positive story as the rest of the weekend. For Álvaro to complete race distance and at a far more competitive pace than we could have expected when we were in the hospital in Qatar six weeks ago, is just incredible! The race itself turned into a fitness test after he ran off the track because of Abraham's crash, but finally we also got a bit of luck as Álvaro was able to avoid all the carnage around him in the first lap as several other riders crashed.
"On behalf of the whole team, I'd like to thank everybody involved in Álvaro's recovery, both in Qatar and Spain. But the main plaudits have to go to Álvaro himself – his commitment to get back as quickly as he has done has been inspirational. Le Mans is the next step and when we arrive in Catalunya we will be pushing to the maximum again!"
bwin Grande Premio de Portugal Race Classification:
1. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 45'51.483: 2. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) +3.051: 3. Casey Stoner (Honda) +7.658: 4. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) +16.530: 5. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) +16.555: 13. ÁLVARO BAUTISTA (RIZLA SUZUKI MOTOGP) +1'24.370:
World Championship Classification:
1. Lorenzo 65: 2. Pedrosa 61: 3. Stoner 41: 4. Rossi 31: 5. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 30: 18. ÁLVARO BAUTISTA (RIZLA SUZUKI MOTOGP) 3:
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