Kallio's third place in Estoril puts him at top of 250cc riders' table
Finnish road racer Mika Kallio (Red Bull KTM) took third place in the 250cc Portuguese Grand Prix on Sunday, and the result was enough to propel him to the head of the World Championship table, though the way the placings were decided left a frown on the rider’s face.
It is almost becoming a trademark that “stuff happens” on the last lap of Kallio’s races, and the final 4.2 kilometres in Estoril were certainly not without incident.
Kallio set off for the final lap hard on the heels of Italy’s Marco Simoncelli, whose tyres were starting to give out, offering Kallio a chance to challenge for second place.
He left his overtaking move until the very last second, but the Gilera rider shut the door on him and the two bikes touched briefly, taking the edge off Kallio’s speed and rendering his assault on the runner-up spot fruitless.
Kallio was stunned at the way Simoncelli meandered across the track to shut him off, but was willing in the end to settle for third.
Victory went to Alvaro Bautista of Spain, riding an Aprilia.
It was the Spaniard and Simoncelli who had collided on the last lap in the previous GP in Jerez to gift that race to Kallio.
Bautista won comfortably in the end to get his title challenge back on track, opening up a seven-second lead over Simoncelli and Kallio, who were separated at the chequered flag by just 0.013 seconds.
The previous leader in the rankings, Mattia Pasini of Italy, who won in Doha and was second behind Kallio in Jerez, was forced to retire with brake problems following a fall.
“During the race, I had no idea that Pasini had gone out and that I had taken over the lead in the World Championship table. And even if I had known, I wouldn’t have settled for third and not had a go on the last lap. The extra four points would have come in very handy. Every point counts, particularly now that Alvaro Bautista, who is still only 5th overall, is starting to move up the rankings”, said Kallio.
Kallio, who started from fourth on the grid, had already overtaken Pasini before the Italian ran into trouble, and the Finn did not see him as a serious threat in the race. The Italian appears to have an all-or-nothing attitude to riding, and this is unlikely to win the title, whereas Kallio’s consistency thus far could take him a long way.
Sunday’s outcome had a few historical echoes: it was here in Estoril in 2005 that Kallio first took the lead in the RR World Championship, when he was then riding in the 125 cc class. The 2005 Portuguese GP brought his first pole position, his first victory, and the first time at the top of the tree.
He now has 57 points from a win and two third places in the three races so far this season, giving him a 12-point cushion over Pasini.
Hector Barbera of Spain (Aprilia), who was 8th in Portugal, is in third spot with 39 points.
This was the thirtieth time that Kallio has stood on the podium, and he has 10 RR victories to his name, with seven of them coming in the smaller 125 cc category.
He has already equalled the number of victories won by Finland’s only Road Racing World Champion Jarno Saarinen (250cc, 1972), whose promising career in the sport was cut short by a fatal accident in 1973.
The next round of the season will be the Grand Prix of China in Shanghai on May 4th. In 2007, Kallio was 5th in China, so he will have to improve on that a little to maintain his perfect record of podium finishes this year.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Mika Kallio benefits from rivals´ last-lap crash to win Spanish GP (31.3.2008)
Mika Kallio (Wikipedia)
Red Bull KTM Racing