Alex de Angelis will be hoping to add to his strong Estoril record when the San Carlo Honda Gresini team makes the trip from its base on the Adriatic to the edge of the Atlantic for this weekend's Grand Prix of Portugal.

The San Marino rider takes on the tricky circuit for the first time on a MotoGP bike, but has stepped onto the podium there in both the 125cc and 250cc classes and reckons that he can build on that to get back in the mix as he was in Qatar.

"Unlike Losail and Jerez, I'll be taking on a circuit where I've never ridden before on a MotoGP bike," he admitted, "Because we haven't tested at Estoril, it's difficult to make predictions, but I'm confident there will be an improvement on recent performances. We were fast all through winter testing, but the results of the first two races were not satisfactory. At Estoril, we can do really well, I'm sure of that."

Staying on for an extra day after the recent round at Jerez in southern Spain helped both de Angelis and veteran team-mate Shinya Nakano make adjustments to the San Carlo-backed Hondas, and the youngster is optimistic that things will be better in Portugal.

"The test at Jerez was really important because we were able to work on certain things that hadn't worked during the race weekend," he explained, "Bridgestone worked closely with the team and brought along a new structure that made the bike more stable. At this point, it's a case of trying to find a little more traction on the rear, which is the area we're struggling the most with right now."

Nakano's objective, meanwhile, is to continue on the upward trend he enjoyed at Losail and Jerez, and continued at the Jerez test last Monday, where he and chief mechanic Antonio Jimenez were able to improve his feeling with the bike and tyres.

"Estoril is another circuit that I know really well," the Japanese rider commented, "To go there after such a positive test on the Monday after the race at Jerez gives me a lot of confidence for the race. We'll go into first free practice with a few small modifications from the base set-up we found at Jerez, which allowed me to ride much more aggressively. The clear objective is to improve and get a better finish than at Jerez. I know we can do it."

"I'm sure that in Shinya can continue with the positive trend he has set lately as, in the test at Jerez, he found a good solution for the setting which gives him a little more over race distance, not just for a single lap," team manager Fausto Gresini echoed.

"Alex, though, is on a steep learning curve, which has been held up a little by a few crashes that haven't helped, especially in terms of his confidence. But I'm convinced that he'll soon be able to get the maximum out of his potential, which I think is at the same level as [Jorge] Lorenzo and [Andrea] Dovizioso, who Alex fought with regularly in 250cc.

"For the whole team, Estoril is a place that holds great memories as, in 2006, we took victory with Toni Elias, showing once again our strength amongst the Honda satellite teams. For that reason, Estoril is the perfect occasion for us to improve on the first two races."

 

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