21 April 2006
Preview - Grand Prix of Portugal.
Most of the motocross grand prix teams have travelled straight from Spain to Portugal for this weekend's third round of the 2006 MX1 and MX2 world championships, where Stefan Everts and Tyla Rattray will be looking to continue their respective class win streaks.
In the premier class, reigning nine-times world champion Everts has done exactly what his rivals hoped he wouldn't - taken an early lead in the standings - and they need to quickly close back in on the Belgian if they are to put him under any pressure.
The Yamaha star hasn't had things all his own way though, being beaten by Sebastien Tortelli in heat one at Zolder and Kevin Strijbos in the opening race at Bellpuig last weekend, but he has matched his speed with consistency - in stark contrast to the fortunes of his nearest rivals, which also include Kawasaki's Tanel Leok, CAS Honda's Ken De Dycker and Suzuki's Steve Ramon.
Portugal has been a regular on the motocross grand prix calendar for several seasons now - and has built up a reputation for unpredictable weather, due mainly to the Agueda circuit being just twenty kilometres from the ocean.
Portugal is also one of the smallest countries to host a grand prix - and a great opportunity for Rui Gonçalves to race at home and, having finished fourth in the second MX2 heat in Spain last Sunday, is in confident mood.
"It was a good moment in Bellpuig, but I want to keep concentrate and focus on each race. I was happy with my speed, but unfortunately in the first race the bike stalled in the second corner and I couldn't restart soon. Overall my result was not so good with only one heat in the points, but I came in Portugal with a strong mental," said the most successful Portuguese rider ever to race in the world championship.
"The problem is that nobody invests in young Portuguese riders and takes the risk to offer them a ride in GPs as Casola did with me," he added. "On the other hand maybe some young and talented riders must look and go in the right direction, that would be good for the sport to have several men racing in the World Championship."
After a long period with Yamaha, Rui started this season with a new Italian team and a European bike. "I'm happy with the team, they support me really well and give me everything that I need to get great results. I feel really good on the bike, it seems that I've always riden a KTM! I dream of a podium at home, but I don't want to put any pressure on myself," he concluded
Up against Gonçalves this weekend will be world championship leader Rattray, plus fellow factory KTM stars Marc De Reuver and David Philippaerts - plus Yamaha riders Tony Cairoli, Kenneth Gundersen and Alessio Chiodi - and the Kawasaki mounted Pourcel brothers.
Practice and qualifying takes place on Saturday with all four races on Sunday.
Click on relevant pic to enlarge
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