LISBON (Reuters) - Australia’s MotoGP world champion Casey Stoner powered back to the top of the overall standings by a single point on Sunday after fending off Spanish rival Jorge Lorenzo to win in Portugal for the first time.
The Honda rider, who won the Spanish Grand Prix in Jerez last weekend, dominated the race at Estoril after starting on pole position for the first time this season and now leads with 66 points after three races, with Yamaha’s Lorenzo on 65.
Spaniard Dani Pedrosa, last year’s winner in Portugal and Stoner’s team mate, finished third for his 100th grand prix podium - a feat achieved by only six other riders in the past 64 years.
Stoner made a great start and never lost the lead on a sunny afternoon, although 2010 champion Lorenzo was close on his tail throughout - and particularly mid-race - to keep the pressure up.
“In the middle section of the race I did not feel so confident and I thought Jorge (Lorenzo) and Dani (Pedrosa) would catch me so I had to find a different way to ride, some different lines, different techniques,” Stoner told television reporters.
“We felt good on the first lap with the new tyres and everything but as soon as that wore off, we had the most severe chattering we’ve had this season,” he added.
“I wasn’t feeling good, I wasn’t feeling comfortable,” said the Australian, who again suffered from some of the ‘arm pump’ muscular contraction problems he suffered in the Qatar season-opener. “Huge pressure from Jorge today and we were lucky to hold on for the win.”
It was the second race in a row with Stoner and Lorenzo first and second and the Honda rider finished 1.421 seconds of his rival. The victory in Portugal meant Stoner has stood on top of the podium at least once in every MotoGP circuit.
“Casey’s rhythm at the end of the race kept us from winning,” said Lorenzo, whose first MotoGP Grand Prix win was in Estoril in 2008.
“To be honest I did not expect to finish second,” he added. “We had a lot of problems in practice but the bike seems much better in the race.”
Lorenzo said he had clutch problems in the opening laps, which allowed Stoner to pull away.
Pedrosa said he had also had a tough afternoon.
“I tried to adapt my riding style because I had some problems in the middle of the corners,” he explained. “I tried to improve lap by lap but I couldn’t make it.”
Spaniard Marc Marquez snatched the Moto2 victory on his Suter after an intense last-lap battle with compatriot Pol Espargaro. Germany’s Sandro Cortese won the Moto3 race.
Reporting By Daniel Alvarenga,; Editing by John Mehaffey and Alan Baldwin