Sunday pm - Checa Joins Ten Kate - the Team He's Never Met

Carlos Checa, the 34-year-old Spaniard currently campaigning an LCR Honda in MotoGP, will fly to Holland tomorrow (Monday) to take up one of the most prized seats in motorcycle racing - the final slot in Ten Kate's World Superbike line-up for 2008.

Incredibly, Checa has never met Gerrit and Ronald Ten Kate, the uncle-and-nephew drivers of the Dutch team. But he impressed Honda by finishing second on a Fireblade in the Suzuka Eight Hours race earlier this year, and they and Ten Kate clearly believe that he retains the fire to chase the Superbike title after spending 15 sometimes frustrating years in MotoGP.

"We have agreed everything," Albero Vergani, Checa's manager, said here at Estoril today. "Tomorrow it will be a meeting to know the people. They have talked by phone but they have never met."

Checa finished fourth in the 500cc championship on a Honda Pons in 1998, but in the last three seasons he has switched between three different MotoGP teams, appearing with Ducati in 2005, Yamaha Tech 3 in 2006 and now with LCR.

"Carlos is happy because he feels that his career here in MotoGP is finished," Vergani said. "Everyone is looking for young riders, and experience is not valued by some of the factory teams.

"A MotoGP bike is also too small for Carlos, and he has had some problems. After the Eight Hours race he said, 'This is a real bike'. Now he has the chance to fight for a championship again."

Checa will line up beside the reigning British Superbike champion Ryuichi Kiyonari and the 2007 World Supersport champion Kenan Sofuogluo in an expanded three-rider Ten Kate Superbike team.

Checa's move ends suggestions that Max Biaggi might fill the vacant Ten Kate role. It also means that there is not as yet a major British rider on the 2008 World Superbike grid, a situation that could see organisers FG Sport influencing Ducati to run Leon Haslam in one of their line-ups.

Sunday pm - Stoner Will Get his Chance at Motegi

Casey Stoner looked dejected in the post-race conference at Estoril after a clutch problem on his Marlboro Ducati robbed him of the chance to fight for victory, but he will recover his bounce when he reflects on Bridgestone's record of success at Motegi, the venue for the next MotoGP round in Japan just seven days away.

Bridgestone has won there for the last three years, the two most recent occasions with Ducati. Makoto Tamada gave them their first victory on the 4.8km track with a Camel Honda in 2004, and Loris Capirossi followed this with two successive wins in on Ducati in 2005 and 2006.

Motegi also puts more pressure on the front tyre than the rear, which plays to one of the strengths that Bridgestone has displayed this season. It also has a 762-metre main straight, which will allow Stoner to use his power advantage from the desmo V4.

If Stoner can maintain his 76-point advantage over Valentino Rossi in Japan, he would take the title as only three rounds - worth a total of 75 points to the winner - would then remain. The world was relieved to see a jubilant Rossi back on form in Portugal, but will be equally happy to see Stoner and Ducati clinch one of the greatest underdog performances in grand prix history.

Sunday pm - Vermeulen Demolishes 'Point-and-Squirt' Electronics Myth

As you watched the action in today's Portuguese MotoGP, you might well have assumed that electronic aids are turning motorcycle racing into a simple twist-and-go operation for riders. Launch control and traction control are taking the skill and the spectacle away from the sport, it is increasingly claimed.

But what's it like for a rider lining up on the grid on a 220bhp MotoGP missile? I asked Rizla Suzuki's Chris Vermeulen - a strong critic of electronic assistance - what his job is now like. And he shattered one big myth about traction control.

"It isn't like you can just give it a big handful of throttle when you come out of a corner," he said. "If I do that my bike will highside instantly. Traction control merely helps a rider. If the bike starts to spin it will help it to grip again."

The 25-year-old Australian has a button on his bike that offers five settings for traction control from zero to maximum. "It gives me the option to change it during a practice session without having to come into the pits, or during the race as the tyre degrades," he explained.

Even starting with launch control is not the simple point-and-squirt affair that some critics of electronics claim. "It controls rpm in the first couple of gears so that the bike doesn't wheelie or spin," Vermeulen said. "But the start time is the same whether I use it or not. I've forgotten to use it at a couple of GPs and I've still got good starts. At Misano I started from the third row and I was fourth coming out of turn one."

But Vermeulen, currently fourth in the championship table, still believes that riders are having less input now that electronic aids have arrived. And being a good ole boy from a rough 'n' tough Australian dirt-tracking background, he'd prefer to go back to 1,000cc bikes with 250 unrestricted horsepower available at the right wrist.

But doesn't electronic equipment aid rider safety? "Racing wouldn't be less safe without it," he insists. "We are supposed to be the 19 best riders in the world. A lot of these guys came from 200-horsepower 500s where the power was like a light switch, but they rarely high-sided because they understood their bikes."

Over to you, race fans. Should electronic over-rides be banned? Can they be eliminated in a simple, cheat-proof way? Do they rob spectators of the spectacle? Let us know...

Sunday pm - Chaz Davies Among Five in Chase for Final d'Antin Ducati

Now that Luis d'Antin has confirmed Frenchman Sylvain Guintoli for his Pramac Ducati satellite team, the 20-year-old Briton Chaz Davies joins a shortlist of five riders who are in line for the last place.

He is competing against Toni Elias, the fiery 24-year-old Spaniard who is currently with the Gresini Honda team, the 250cc rider Hiroshi Aoyama, and d'Antin's existing pairing of Alex Barros and Alex Hofmann. Elias or Barros would probably be d'Antin's first choice when considerations such as sponsorship are taken into consideration.

A decision will probably be made at the Japanese MotoGP round next weekend.

Sunday pm - Would-be Valentinos, Sign on for the Next Red Bull MotoGP Challenge

Following our story here on Matthew Hoyle, the 16-year-old Yorkshireman who holds third place in the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup, rider selector Peter Clifford reminds other young Brits to apply before the October 5 deadline for the 2008 series.

Hoyle, who will seek his first win of the year at the final round at Valencia on November 3, is one of five British teenagers competing in the series. It is open to riders aged 14 to 16, and you can apply at www.redbullrookiescup.com.

Unsuccessful applicants from this year are eligible for the championship, for which everything is provided, including the 125cc KTM bikes, except for travel and accommodation costs. Success in the series could open the door to a place in the MotoGP Academy, and the kind of reputation that 16-year-old Bradley Smith has carved in the Repsol Honda 125cc GP team.

Sunday am - Puig Could Switch to KTM, and Maybe Take Bradley

Five pre-breakfast minutes in the Repsol Honda truck to catch up on developments and rumours with Alberto Puig, mentor of Dani Pedrosa and Bradley Smith, and one of the most influential figures in the MotoGP paddock.

Is it true that he is trying to switch his 125 and 250cc operations from Honda to KTM? "There is an approach and a possibility with KTM," he confirms. "But we also have to talk to Repsol to see if they are going to continue with their junior programme."

Part of his problem is a lack of the development in Honda's smaller bikes, particularly the 125. It's meant that Smith has been unable to repeat the podium position he recorded at the French GP seven races ago, and remains in ninth position in the championship.

So if Puig moves to KTM, will he take the 16-year-old Smith with him? "The guy is a talent and is making good progress," Puig responds. "But this year it's not been so easy. There is other competition out there. We need to improve our machines."

He continues: "We will try to help Bradley. He has proved that he can do it."

Hmmm, if I were Bradley I'd be feeling out other options, just in case. Puig has a great reputation for helping young riders, but even he can't resolve everyone's future.

And what of the wild rumour that Pedrosa hasn't yet re-signed for Repsol Honda in 2008 because he is unhappy with the new RC212V, and might make a last-minute move to Ducati?

Puig demolishes that one totally ("There are a lot of idiots in this paddock," are his actual words). "Our priority has always been to concentrate on getting the bike and the package right," he said. "Signing the contract has taken second place."

Expect Pedrosa to confirm his link with Honda shortly.

Sunday am - Four Factors that Could Determine Estoril

Some points to consider as you settle down to watch today's race:

Although Valentino Rossi says that his new pneumatic-valve engine is faster, his Fiat Yamaha is still 4.15mph (6.6kph) slower than Casey Stoner's Marlboro Ducati on Estoril's long front straight. Stoner has hit 194.75mph (313.6kph), to Rossi's 190.58mph (306.9kph).

Exit speed from the final right-hand turn onto the straight will be one of the key factors today. The crew chief that gets the sweet setup there will give his rider a big advantage in the drag-race to the finish line.

Laps times in this morning's 20-minute warm-up session may be more significant than usual, as the entire race programme is running an hour later today. Air and track temperatures in the warm-up may therefore be closer to those for the race than is normal at a grand prix.

Tyre endurance is likely to be a significant factor in the race, with daytime temperatures at Estoril forecast to be 24C. So although Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi sandwich Stoner on the front row, will their Michelins match his Bridgestones in the closing laps?