Lorenzo remains on top, but Stoner takes the accolades at Estoril

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The Independent Online

At the end of qualifying for the Portugual MotoGP, Fiat Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo leads the way, securing his fifth poll of the season with a best time of 1:36.214 but it is Ducati rider Casey Stoner's performance, finishing third, that took all the accolades.

Back on the track for the first time after a two-month break recovering from fatigue, the 23 year-old Australian posted a time of 1:36.528, good enough for third. He told the press: “my body's sore because I haven't been on the bike for so long, but so far I haven't struggled with any of the [previous] symptoms”.

Championship leader Valentino Rossi finished second by two tenths of a second and expressed some disappointment with his performance, “we still need more traction on the exits from the slow corners and we are also losing some time in the tight hairpin” said the 30 year old. Yet with nine podium finishes in his nine appearances at Estoril, Rossi looks strong for tomorrow. Currently second in the rider's championship and thirty points behind Rossi, Lorenzo needs a positive result this weekend keep his title hope alive. British rider James Toseland finished in twelfth position.

Elsewhere, the 250cc class saw a scuffle for the top spot between Spaniards Hector Barbera and Alvaro Bautista. Riding with Pepe World Team, Barbera eventually pipped the Mapfre Aspar of Bautista to poll by less than one tenth of a second. Bautista seemed happy with his second place finish after a disappointing Friday session. 2008 World Champion, Marco Simoncelli came close to the front two but didn't do enough to muscle in on the top spots, finishing third. Current Championship leader, Hiroshi Aoyama, had to settle for forth place, in what is increasingly becoming a tight race for the 2009 crown.

Earlier in the afternoon, in the 125cc category, Spanish rider Julian Simon claimed his sixth poll position of the season with a time of 1:45.199. His nearest competitor – Pol Esporango of Derbi Racing Team – finishing over half a second slower. Britain's Bradley Smith left it late, but made it into third place on his final lap, rounding off a good session for the Aspar Team. Simon, though, looks on course for victory on a weekend when he has a mathematical chance of winning the World Championship.

But the talk of the day remains with Stoner: “after not actually training for five months or so it's great to be back up here...tomorrow is the race, which is the big one and let's see”.