Casey Stoner has been felled by flu this week, but he's determined to win at the only track he hasn't recorded a Premier Class victory at says Trent Burton.
The script in Qatar said it was supposed to be a Casey Stoner runaway instead Jorge Lorenzo took an unlikely win as Stoner succumbed to arm pump. Then last week in Spain it was supposed to be a third straight home win for Jorge. Instead Stoner produced one of the rides of his life to take his first ever Spanish GP win.
This week we're in Estoril which is historically Lorenzo's Land. In his four MotoGP visits here he's had three wins and a second. For Stoner, Estoril remains the only track on the entire calendar he's never won at in the premier class, although he did take a victory here in 250cc. Not even Valentino Rossi has won at every track on the calendar.
Throughout practice so far this weekend Stoner seems fairly intent on completing the set. Quickest on Friday, and second today by just a hundreth with slightly less chatter than he's had of late. All of that has the Australian as a 2.546/4 favourite for the win, and that's a solid price.
He'd probably be even shorter if it weren't for him being felled by the flu. And not just the sort of man flu that leaves most of us curled up on the couch demanding lemon tea in our best Brando voice. His press interviews yesterday was full of more coughs than quotes and he says he's shattered from a lack of sleep. Only time will tell how much of an effect that will have over full race distance. I still think it'll take quite the effort from someone to beat even a sick Stoner on Sunday but his price does have an early asterisk next to it.
The logical choice to stop Stoner is usually Lorenzo, but it's not been a good weekend thus far for the Spaniard. Down in fifth on Friday he said he expected things to improve on Saturday morning, which they did but not by as much as he would have hoped as he fought a lack of feeling from the rear. He's a current 3.185/40 which would usually be considered very long for Lorenzo at Estoril but this weekend it might be a little short. For the first time this year, I'd be wary of backing him.
On the flip side, it's the first time I'm genuinely interested in a victory punt on Dani Pedrosa. He's been closer to the front in free practice than of late and he's looked more at home on the bike all weekend.
He took the win here in 2011 and save for a small mechanical gremlin this morning, really took it up to Stoner to finish the session top. The 4.3100/30 is great value for him and if someone's going to topple Stoner on Sunday it could very well be his team-mate. With the price difference at the moment, covering yourself with a good punt on both of the Repsol boys should see you come out on top this weekend.
And now for the paragraph that there were times I thought I might never be able to write. Aside from the big three, if you're looking for an outside punt for the top three, I'd be backing the Brit. It's been twelve years since a Brit stood on a MotoGP podium and I really believe, and hope, that the man who's going to end that drought at some point this year will be Cal Crutchlow.
His rides to fourth in the first two races this year have been astounding. That's reflected in the fact he's 1.774/5 for a podium, the shortest I can remember a Brit ever being, so even putting patriotism aside, it's well worth a look if he drifts just a little more.
Hopefully the weather holds up tomorrow and we get our third straight cracker. On paper, it's Stoner's to lose but his team-mate is very well poised to make it three different winners from the first three races this year.