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Page last updated at 12:12 GMT, Friday, 8 April 2011 13:12 UK

Cool Lorenzo hits right notes for winning in the rain

Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner collide in the Spanish MotoGP
The collision between Rossi and Stoner was a talking point from Estoril

By Azi Farni
BBC pit-lane reporter

After an explosive first European race of 2011 in Jerez, there are a lot of questions going into the next round at Estoril on 1 May.

For the riders: how to stay on track and conserve tyres in difficult conditions? For the marshals: what is the code of conduct following a crash? And for Ducati: just what does the Desmosedici GP11 have in the wet that it lacks in dry conditions?

The worst thing that can happen for riders and teams is to race on Sunday in conditions completely different to those during the practice sessions.

Last Thursday, everyone in the pits was talking of rain on Sunday which was hard to believe after four days of Spanish sunshine.

Sure enough, en route to the circuit for the race the rain was already beginning to fall.

For the fans it would provide drama and entertainment; for the riders it would prove either a great leveller or an absolute nightmare!

It was a huge testament to the Bridgestone wet tyres that they could last for the 27 laps of the race given that the course was drying out after the rain had stopped.

As grip levels diminished, those who made it across the finish line did so on tyres so worn they looked like slicks.

The crash between Rossi and Stoner has become a controversial incident for the aftermath and how it was handled

First home was Jorge Lorenzo who won by keeping "very concentrated to save the tyres". Meanwhile, at the back, Repsol Honda's Andrea Dovizioso had to come in with 10 laps to go to change his tyres, although he said later that the problem was exacerbated by the traction control set up.

In all, nine riders' tyres felt the gravel during the race, with only four making it back on track to score championship points.

The five unlucky ones included Marco Simoncelli, who crashed while leading, Ben Spies, who came to grief soon after overtaking Dani Pedrosa for second place, and Casey Stoner, cruelly robbed of chance to win by a Valentino Rossi overtaking manoeuvre which resulted in them both going down.

Stoner's subsequent "your ambition outweighed your talent" comment to Rossi after the race was picked up by the cameras and has since been played, replayed. They have been applauded and condemned by journalists, team members and fans across the world.

The comment seemed a heat-of-the-moment reaction but the real anger from the Repsol Honda camp was directed towards the marshals, who seemingly all ran to help Rossi while Stoner was left waiting for the nine-time world champion to get back on track before receiving their attention.

It has become a controversial incident, not for the crash - which all sides agree was just a "racing incident" - but for the aftermath and how it was handled.

The FIM have since released a statement informing that Race Direction have organised a hearing with the clerk of the course and the chief marshal to review how the incident was handled .

Whatever the outcome of the hearing it will not affect the race result or reverse the reopening of the feud between Stoner and Rossi, which dates back to that incident on the corkscrew at Laguna 08.

Reactions to Stoner's comment aside, he was right about one thing - it was certainly an ambitious move from as far back as Rossi was when he initiated his charge up the inside.

Jorge Lorenzo celebrates his Spanish MotoGP win
Lorenzo kept a cool head to earn victory in Spain

But the good news for Rossi fans is that his "ambitious" racing was dictated by a genuine belief that he could win the race.

No one was expecting Rossi to be in contention this early in the season, least of all himself, and after the winter tests and Qatar GP weekend it seemed that even a podium finish would not come in the season's early stages.

Yet the Italian, nicknamed The Doctor, was able to take full advantage of the wet conditions to move up to third from 12th on the grid before the crash. Afterwards, he clawed his way back to a very respectable fifth.

Ducati's change in fortunes was a direct result of the weather and they can take important information from their wet settings and adapt it to dry.

The next GP in Estoril is followed by a one day MotoGP test on the Monday and that weekend the Ducati team are expecting to find a Desmosedici GP11 revised with the fruits of their findings from the 2011 tests.

Before that the Ducati test team will conduct a private test in Jerez this weekend with test riders Vitto Guareschi and Franco Battaini on the latest evolution 800cc bike. They are planning to test a revamped engine and, possibly, a carbon fibre chassis .

Although prohibited by International Motorcycling Federation (FIM) rules to privately test the 800cc evolution, riders Rossi and Nicky Hayden are present in Jerez to give next year's 1000cc GP12 its first shakedown.

While the Ducati pair will not be sitting on the GP11 bike at this test, they can still glean some valuable information from the GP12 because, despite the difference in engine capacity, the direction of the development of the GP11 will be following the same path.

Word from inside the Ducati garage is that the team could receive the new GP11 frame at the start of the Estoril weekend and use the GP's practice sessions as testing time on the bike. If that is the case it will be interesting to see how the team perform over the course of that GP and test weekend.

The other factor in Ducati's advantage going into Estoril is the near four weeks that Rossi will have, following the postponement of the Japanese GP, to continue his recovery from a shoulder injury, which was not affected by his crashes in either qualifying practice or the race in Jerez.

There was another way in which the rain suited the Italian - the conditions of the track and tyres meant that everything went at a slower pace. The race was five minutes longer than usual and riders will have pushed a bit less and braked with less force throughout, reducing the pressure Rossi needed to put on his shoulder.

The conditions also helped Pedrosa for whom race distance was looking a problem following the revelation that he had numbness in his left arm after the Qatar race.

In the end, the Spaniard was able to take an important 20 points a day ahead of successful surgery from which he now has three weeks to recover before Estoril.

In a wet race it is a lottery as to who stays up and who goes down, but riders make their own luck.

It takes a lot to stay on track in those conditions and there should be praise for the likes of Hiroshi Aoyama, less than half a second off the podium, John Hopkins, finishing inside the top 10 despite not having ridden a MotoGP bike in two years, and rookie Cal Crutchlow, who although new to the Jerez circuit finished eighth after a crash saw him fall back from fifth.

Crutchlow's finish topped off a great day for the Brits in all classes, with Danny Kent and Taylor Mackenzie - both contesting their first full season in 125cc after a handful of wildcard entries last year - finishing an incredible fourth and fifth respectively in another race that saw lots of falls from podium positions.

In Moto2, Bradley Smith and Kev Coghlan, in only their second race in the class, finished a very respectable fourth and eighth respectively, with Smith having lead the race in the early stages. One thing is for sure, the Brits know how to ride in the rain!

However, despite everything else, the weekend belonged to Lorenzo. His cool riding earned him a first MotoGP win in the wet and the lead in the championship standings.

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see also
Hearing into Rossi-Stoner crash
06 Apr 11 |  Motorsport
Lorenzo seals Spanish MotoGP win
03 Apr 11 |  MotoGP
Stoner takes opening win in Qatar
20 Mar 11 |  MotoGP
Bridgestone extends MotoGP deal
19 Mar 11 |  MotoGP

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