It's straight to Portugal this weekend for the third round of the MotoGP and everything is being crossed in the paddock for a sunnier, drier GP than we had in Spain…
Casey Stoner broke a personal duck at Jerez last weekend by winning a MotoGP race there for the first time. Estoril is now the only circuit on the calendar where the reigning World Champion hasn't tasted victory in the premier class. But after the way he turned things around in Spain the Red Bull rider will be confident of finally conquering the Portuguese circuit where he took his first 250cc win back in 2005.
Compare Stoner’s MotoGP record at Estoril to that of title rival Jorge Lorenzo and the story is a very different one. The Spaniard won the Portuguese GP three years on the bounce from 2008 to 2010 and finished second last year. With Stoner and Lorenzo both with a win each this season the scrap at the front is warming up nicely.
Stoner will be mildly concerned that, as the championship heads directly to Portugal with a proper break, there hasn't been much time to resolve the arm pump issue which affected his Qatar race and then resurfaced at Jerez. He won in Spain but it will be playing on the Australian's mind.
Stoner's team-mate Dani Pedrosa has been on the podium in the opening two rounds, but after finishing first in Portugal last year he should challenge the leading two for victory. A win for the Spaniard would make the battle at the top even more exciting – and a top-three result in Portugal would mark a 100th Grand Prix podium for the Red Bull man.
After finishing fourth in Qatar and Spain, Cal Crutchlow can almost taste those podium steps. The Tech 3 rider is getting closer to becoming the first Brit since Jeremy McWilliams in 2000 to stand on the rostrum in the elite category. His team-mate Andrea Dovizioso looks like he still has a little way to go before really challenging though, but the way he's stepped onto the Yamaha has been nothing short of commendable.
The one to watch this weekend will be Stefan Bradl. The rookie won't trouble the leading group but he's already been mixing it up with more experienced riders in his two races so far, and he's won the Moto2 races at Estoril for the last two years. A top-six finish for the Red Bull rider in only his third MotoGP race would be an excellent result.
Another rider due a big result is Ben Spies. We're just two races in but the pressure is already mounting on the American, riding a factory Yamaha and off colour in the first two rounds. Failure to impress this weekend wouldn't do his situation any good.
Marc Márquez is top of the tree in Moto2 after winning in Qatar and coming in second in Jerez. Pol Espargaró is a very close second in the standings after a similarly hot start. The Catalan duo crossed swords in the 125cc class in 2010 when Márquez came out on top and took the title and this time the pair square up in the intermediate category. Márquez has the advantage of being an experienced Moto2 winner while Espargaró's first victory came in Spain last weekend. Now he's had a taste he'll be pushing even harder.
Tom Lüthi has had a strong start, fighting at the front in both races, so he should be a contender in Portugal. Scott Redding and Mika Kallio are pushing hard on the Kalex, too, and a top-three for either of those team-mates is a realistic target.
Rookie Takaaki Nakagami has shown plenty of promise, and Bradley Smith has eased himself in with solid results. Both should be in contenders.
You can't talk about Moto3 at the moment without mentioning Romano Fenati in the same sentence, and with good reason too. The 16-year-old has stormed the category in his debut season and is already being hailed as the next great Italian hope. No pressure, then.
In Portugal we can expect to see him and pre-season favourite Maverick Viñales going head to head, with Sandro Cortese also fixing his sights on one of the top spots. Cortese has struggled to match the pace of the leader but was pleased with changes made to his KTM in Spain.
The Red Bull KTM Ajo rider has been on the podium in both races so far and will fancy his chances of taking a first win of 2012. Fellow Red Bull rider Luis Salom will also be there or thereabouts. Cortese's team-mates Danny Kent and Arthur Sissis will both be in search of positive results to put a disappointing Jerez behind them.
Red Bull Rookies
The Red Bull MotoGP Rookies are also back in action just days after two thrilling races in Jerez. Reigning champ Lorenzo Baldassarri is heading the points table going into Race Three on Saturday, but the 15-year-old Italian didn’t have it all his own way in Jerez.
He struggled in testing at Estoril earlier this year and had to settle for 11th place on the grid for last Saturday’s opener. He came finished eighth in that event, but then fought back to win Sunday’s race.
Ivo Lopes will be another one to watch. The Portuguese teenager has looked blisteringly quick this year and was beaten by just five 1000ths of a second over the line last Sunday. With his home fans behind him, he could be unstoppable.