Tech 3 Yamaha rider Marco Melandri will contest his second MotoGP event at Estoril in this weekend's Portuguese Grand Prix, hoping that 'lady luck' will smile on him again after a run of recent ill fortune.

The Italian is currently battling a right-hand injury sustained in accidents at the Sachsenring and Donington Park (middle pic) during July. The previous month the former 250 world champion had proved that he is really getting the hang of controlling a 230-plus horsepower MotoGP machine by recording his first premier-class podium finishes at the Catalan and Dutch GPs.

However, Melandri isn't the tallest rider on the grid and he reckons his lack of stature is a handicap. At 165cm tall the former 250cc world champion finds it difficult to get enough weight over the rear tyre... But if he moves his riding position back, then he can't get enough weight on the front tyre for corner entries. It's a classic racing Catch 22.

"I can spin the rear tyre no problem, the only problem in MotoGP is spinning too much," he explained. "Most riders can control wheelspin by moving their weight backwards to put more weight on the rear tyre but I'm very short, so I can't move back as effectively as most riders.

"This means that I can't afford to get any wheelspin in the first place. We have moved my riding position around a lot, but if we move my seating position too far back I'm then unable to put any weight over the front tyre, which means I have less front-end grip, so I'm too slow into the corners," he continued.

"Generally I can use quite soft Michelins - because I'm light and because of my riding style. I'd say I usually use medium-soft tyres at Estoril because you need good traction for the slow corners and because the track surface is usually quite dirty."

Last year at Estoril Melandri finished seventh, albeit only 16 seconds behind winner Valentino Rossi. And he has enjoyed great success at the track in 250s, finishing on the podium on three consecutive visits from 2000 to 2002.

"Estoril isn't such a bad circuit, so long as it's not too windy," said Marco. "It's a bit strange though because it has a very fast straight but then many slow corners, plus it's very bumpy. It isn't one of the most difficult circuits for tyres. Maybe after half the race you start sliding around a bit but it's not a real problem. Slow corners don't really put too much heat into the tyres.

"The only turn at Estoril that really affects the tyres is the final corner which is very long, so you're using a lot of lean and a lot of throttle because you're always working to get the best-possible exit speed to give you as much speed as possible down the straight," he added. "It's quite tricky because you want to get on the throttle as early as possible, but if you open up too early you'll get too much wheelspin, so then you have to ease off the throttle which loses you a lot of time."

There is one other corner through which riders can really gain - or lose - a lot of time at Estoril: Turn five is a dauntingly fast and unforgiving right-hander, taken at over 220kmh.

"Turn five is a very fast sweeper that takes you onto the back straight," Melandri continues. "Again, you want to get through there as quick as possible because that will give you more speed for the next 500 metres. It's fifth gear, so it's quite exciting! But it's not a long corner, so you need to get in there fast. The trouble is, if you're a metre out on the entry, you're six or seven metres off line on the exit, which will really hurt your speed."

First qualifying for the Portuguese Grand Prix takes place this Friday.



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