A victory and a second-place finish in the last two GPs have moved Repsol Aprilia rider Sebastian Porto to within 9-points of Randy de Puniet and 36-points of 250cc world championship leader Dani Pedrosa heading into this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi.

Here, the hard riding Argentinean talks about his season so far, the recent race victory by Toni Elias, his championship chances and much more...

Q: With the 2004 world championship entering its final stages, what's your analysis of the season so far?

Sebastian Porto: "I think that the results achieved so far are quite positive, but the real balance will be made at the end of the season. I cannot be dissatisfied because we've won three races, we've set six poles and we have been several times on the podium, so everything is actually working well. At least from my point of view, which I think matches that of the team."

Q: Do you think that the recent strong performances of Toni Elias will help or hinder you in your fight for the world championship?

Sebastian Porto: "From the beginning, I thought that there would be several riders in the lead and that the fight would be much more equal. In fact, this is the season with the highest level as regards official bikes and winning riders. Nobody expected Dani Pedrosa's performance; it was a surprise for all of us, and De Puniet is there, fighting race after race.

"Now there's Toni as well, one of the riders I thought would be in the leading places from the first races and we have to make the best of it. Toni is another rival for me, so I'll keep on doing my job and following my path; but if he's in the front and we can take some more points from the leader, so much the better."

Q: There are five races left, 125 points at stake and a gap of 36 points to Pedrosa. Do you think it's possible to catch Dani?

Sebastian Porto: "The situation isn't easy at all, but it isn't impossible. We've made up several points in the last two races, so that now that there are 125 points still at stake, anything can happen. What really matters is a good working bike, but I also hope to have luck on our side."

Q: What can you tell us about the remaining circuits? Which are best and least suited to your Aprilia, and why?

Sebastian Porto: "Of the five races left, the less favourable is Motegi, because it is a Honda track. But the truth is that anything can happen in these races. As I said, the most important is a good working bike.

"Anyway, Portugal wasn't a favourable track for Aprilia either, but we were there in the front, throughout the weekend. Qatar is a new track for all of us so I cannot make any analysis. Malaysia, Australia and Valencia are favourable tracks for Aprilia, although as I said, everything is relative."

Q: Is the pressure growing now that we're getting to the closing stages of the world championship?

Sebastian Porto: "No, not at all. I'm very calm and concentrated, just as I started the season. This is my first chance to clinch the title and I'm fine so far. I haven't felt any extra pressure, just the right one. What makes me feel very calm and confident is my team and Jorge as well; he gives me good advise and I always try to listen to him. I try to listen to the people that give me confidence and trust."

Q: Do you think your bike will develop much more before the end of the season?

Sebastian Porto: "I wish it would, but I know that it won't be easy. Aprilia has been working a lot since the start of the season and we have done a lot of tests, allowing us to make several improvements, so now the bike is much more competitive. I'm confident that Aprilia will keep on working and improving until the end of the championship."

Q: Jorge Mart?nez 'Aspar' (team manager and a former rider) usually gives you a lot of advice in the garage. How important is his contribution?

Sebastian Porto: "Jorge helps me a lot. He usually doesn't get involved in things but whatever he tells me, gives me a lot of confidence and I learn from him what I need. As a former rider, he has been in my current situation several times.

"Jorge is a very clear person, he doesn't speak much but whatever he says gives you confidence and that is very important for a rider. He usually anticipates what will happen and that is obviously very important for me."



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