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MotoGPJapanSeptember 19, 2004
MotoGP World Championship Grand Prix Round 12
Grand Prix of the Japan, Motegi

Terrific Tamada Triumphs on Home Territory

Magnificent Makoto Tamada (Camel Honda RC211V) riding on Bridgestone tyres made his home race his own with a resounding win. In front of a vocal 67,000 crowd in beating heat, he finished 6.168 seconds ahead of Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) with Shinya Nakano (Kawasaki) third.

Makoto TAMADA (Camel Honda)

Makoto TAMADA (Camel Honda)

Tamada started from his second consecutive pole of the season, but it was Rossi who made it into turn one first. But a huge pile-up ensued immediately behind taking out six riders. Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC211V), Colin Edwards (Telefonica MoviStar Honda RC211V), Max Biaggi (Camel Honda RC211V), Kenny Roberts and John Hopkins (both Suzuki) and Loris Capirossi (Ducati) never got further than turn one.

The incident was sparked when Capirossi dived up the inside and collided with Hopkins. They tangled, went down and skittled the other victims. There were no serious injuries although Roberts suffered a dislocated elbow and Hopkins two broken ribs. It could have been worse.

The debris, human and mechanical, was cleared quickly enough to prevent the appearance of red flags and it was Rossi who led Tamada and Marco Melandri (Yamaha) into lap two.

Tamada was right up with Rossi and they had a 2.9 second advantage over Melandri by the time lap three began. It looked like this would be a two-way fight until Tamada rocketed past Rossi on the downhill entry to the tunnel at the end of the back straight.

Rossi stuck with him until half-race distance when it became clear that Tamada had the stamina to maintain a higher pace. Tamada had already set a new lap record of 1’ 48.524 on lap five, 0.361 seconds inside Rossi’s 2003 record.

Meanwhile Tohru Ukawa (HRC Honda RC211V) had fallen on lap nine and Norick Abe (Yamaha) who had been holding fourth place retired with machine failure a lap later. Tamada had a 1.3 second advantage over Rossi by lap 12.

The pattern was now set for the top two steps of the podium, but there was more action to come in the dispute for third. Melandri could not hold on to his place and Nakano got past him on lap 19.

Alex Barros (Repsol Honda RC211V), who’d had a wretched time in qualifying was making his way through the field and after disposing of Melandri he ran out of laps to wrest third from Nakano. He finished fourth.

Sete Gibernau (Telefonica MoviStar Honda RC211V) was another title contender who suffered here. He never got comfortable and a distant sixth was the best he could manage.

Tamada was delighted with his win. “I had a feeling everyone was going into turn one a bit too hot. And you saw what happened. I was behind Rossi and so I missed it all. I attacked early and the bike and tyres were fantastic. I took Bridgestone’s advice after the warm-up and they, like Honda, gave me the means to win. Thanks.”

Barros was realistic about his fourth place. “We had problems with the front of the machine all weekend,” he said. “I was very lucky to stay on the machine at the start, I had to get hard on the brakes and was nearly in the dirt. When you have so many people to overtake it’s hard to keep consistent lap times, but from where we were at the start, I guess fourth place is not that bad.”

Sete refuses to give up on his World Championship hopes. “The most difficult Grand Prix of the season,” he said. “I almost thought about returning to the pit garage, but because of the turn one incident I decided to finish the race. Sixth place means points, and although the World Championship will be really hard now, I won’t give up.”

Colin Edwards was a key witness to the turn one carnage. “I got hit by Capirossi,” he said. “A pity because I had good feel and the set-up was fine. But this is racing and the same thing happened last year when I got hit by Hopkins at turn one. But the Japanese should be happy with two riders on the podium.”

Hayden said, “There was so much dust I couldn’t see a thing at turn one. I was nearly stopped and then ran into a bike and put my bad leg down and just keeled over. It’s frustrating but I guess these things happen, especially in turn one. We just got to keep going forward and not think about what might have been.”

Max told it how it was. “I saw a Ducati and another bike at turn one going in the opposite direction – the wrong one. Somebody hit me very hard but I managed to stay on board. I went into the dirt and then another bike crashed in front of me making me crash. Disappointing, because today felt like I could run a great race.”

Ukawa said, “I’m very disappointed. I tried to avoid the multiple crash but it left me down in 13th place. My laps times were the same as the front group, but I pushed hard and crashed at turn three when the front folded.”

The World Championship now looks difficult for the Honda challengers. Rossi is ahead on 229 points, Gibernau second with 190 and Max still third despite two consecutive DNFs on 158 points. Barros lies fourth with 115. Four rounds of the 16 race series now remain.

Dani Pedrosa (Telefonica MoviStar Junior Team RS250RW) won the 250cc race, his fifth win in this his rookie 250 season. He started from pole and led into turn one before his erstwhile rival from his 125cc days, Tony Elias (Fortuna Honda RS250RW), snatched the lead at turn two.

The duo were then locked in combat and on lap three the battle for early supremacy was vicious. They were evenly matched and sheer force of will was the determining factor as they almost continually swapped the lead. Randy de Puniet (Aprilia) was even by now a distant third. But he would not maintain that place. He slipped down the order after crashing and remounting to finish 11th.

It was then Hiroshi Aoyama (Telefonica MoviStar Junior Team RS250RW) who began making the running in third. Wild card rider Yukio Takahashi (Dydo Miu Racing Honda RS250RW) had held fifth until de Puniet’s exit and was now fourth.

Elias led the middle stages of this 23-lap race and with Pedrosa riding inches away from him. This high-speed double act was now 7.6 seconds ahead of Aoyama. By lap 17 the Elias/Pedrosa fight intensified and this was what spurred Dani to extract himself from a risky and grudging contest.

In the final third of the race he hauled away from Elias, carving a 0.6 second lead on lap 18, which he extended to 3.1 seconds at the flag. Elias had no answer. Aoyama held onto third despite the best efforts of Sebastian Porto (Aprilia) who finished fourth.

“That was a difficult race,” said Dani. “It was hot and Elias was fast. I had to fight really hard with him and at the end I got into a better rhythm. This was a difficult weekend with my practice crash but it’s turned out okay thanks to the work done my team and Honda, so thanks to them.”

Elias was less generous to his opponent. “That was a hard race,” he said. “Pedrosa was fast, but I don’t believe he was faster than me. I was doing all I could, but today all the people saw one thing – Pedrosa weighs 44kg and I’m 67kg. But I’m happy with my team and Honda, so thank you to them.”

The World Championship points table looks like this: Pedrosa 234 points, de Puniet 187, Porto 186 and Elias 142.

The 125cc race was stopped when the leaders were beginning lap ten. Imre Toth (Aprilia) hit Andrea Ballerini’s stricken Aprilia on the start/finish straight. Andrea Dovizioso (Team Scot Honda RS125R) had a 2.544 second lead over Roberto Locatelli (Aprilia) when the red flags came out. Hector Barbera (Aprilia) was lying third.

A new 13-lap race was then started with the grid formed-up with riders in the positions in which they had finished lap eight (the last lap the whole grid completed). But Barbera failed to make the grid for the warm-up lap and had to start from the back of the grid.

Locatelli led into turn one with Dovzioso in close company, and before a lap had been completed they had already dropped their chasers. Barbera was out of touch and eventually retired.

Fabrizio Lai (Gilera) headed the pursuers with Mika Kallio (KTM) and Simone Corsi (Team Scot Honda RS125R) among the group. Dovi was shadowing Locatelli and the pair had now extended a five second lead over Lai in third by lap seven.

On the next lap Dovi powered past Locatelli on the start/finish straight, but Locatelli took back the lead three turns later. Again, Dovizioso stayed in close touch but refrained from making another bid for the lead.

The penultimate lap was when he chose to take the race under his control and again the start/finish straight was the place. He held it to the flag. But Locatelli failed to settle for a certain second place and lost the front end of his machine and crashed three turns from home.

Corsi had taken third place from Lai, but Lai managed to squeeze inside him at the entrance to the second tunnel section and managed to broach the line half a machine’s length ahead of Corsi. Two Team Scot Honda riders were on the podium.

Dovi said, “Two parts were tough. In the first race I was running a good pace, but for the second race I didn’t feel quite so good and stayed behind Locatelli to see what would happen. But I needed the win and went for it. Locatelli’s crash was a shame for him – but good for me.”

The World Championship would now look to be in Dovzioso’s control. The Italian has 208 points to Hector Barbera’s 163 and Locatelli’s 156 with four races to go.

Alex BARROS (Repsol Honda Team)

Sete GIBERNAU (Telefonica Movistar Honda Mot)

Makoto Tamada, Camel Honda (Bridgestone Tyres), 1st:
“In the first corner I realized that everybody was going too fast to take it properly, and you all saw how it ended up. I was second behind Valentino and I remembered the last race at Estoril, where I finished behind him. I wanted a different race to that one so I pushed hard and began to attack him. The bike was running brilliantly and so were the tyres. I followed the advice the Bridgestone technicians gave me after the warm-up and the tyre choice was correct. I had everything to win, I attacked and overtook Valentino and set my rhythm to the end. Thanks to everybody, this victory is really important.”

Gianluca Montiron, Camel Honda, (Makoto Tamada Team Manager):
“Already in the morning warm-up we knew that Makoto could have a race pace which could make the difference, and we knew who he had to keep an eye out for. Makoto imposed the pace and dictated the race using all his determination. If he had need to push even more, he probably had something else in reserve just in case. This second victory for Makoto and the team in 2004 is a result that shows the good work we are doing here. Thanks to Honda for their support, to Bridgestone and to Camel, the GP of Japan has been a great event.”

Alex Barros, Repsol Honda Team, 4th:
“Basically we had a problem all weekend with the front of the machine. On the brakes especially. We change everything on the front suspension to help but I think in the end it is a tyre problem. All the Honda machines with Michelins suffer for the same problems. At the start I lost all my positions. I was very lucky to stay on the machine. I get on the brakes very hard and so nearly run off the track into the dirt. I think in the race the lap times were okay but when you have so many people to overtake it is hard to keep consistent fast lap times. From where we were at the end of the first lap I guess fourth place is not so bad.”

Sete Gibernau, Telefonica MoviStar Honda, 6th:
“We’ve had a lot of problems here this weekend and this is my worst GP since I came to Honda. I couldn’t do much more in the situation we were in and I even have to thank God I finished sixth, which was unthinkable with the problems we had. I almost retired because I had a major problem with the front tyre from the start and I didn’t know if I could hang on. In the end I made it to the finish line but with the tyre in pieces. When I saw it on my return to the pit box I realized how lucky I was that I didn’t crash. This sort of thing has never happened to me before and I am sure Michelin want the best for us, but we need to go back to what we had before and the tyre which has always worked for me.”

Fausto Gresini Team Manager:
“Today was a complete disaster. We have got a better result than we expected with Sete as a consequence of other people’s misfortune and we need to concentrate on getting him back where he belongs. Colin was really lucky to get caught up in that accident and it’s a real shame because he could have done well here.”

Nicky Hayden, Repsol Honda Team:
“Definitely disappointing. This morning I was fourth fastest and I felt good on race day. I was ready to go for it. It had been a tough weekend but today was by far the best I had felt over the three days. In the first turn it was carnage. I didn’t see what happened. I just picked it up to avoid a bike and ran into the dirt. There was so much dust I couldn’t see a thing. I was nearly stopped then ran into a bike and put my bad leg down and just keeled over. It’s definitely frustrating but I guess these things happen especially in Turn 1. There are so many fast guys out there all going for it. We’ve just gotta’ look forward and not think about what might have been!”

Max Biaggi, Camel Honda (Michelin Tyres), Not finished first lap:
“I got away quite well, but as I turned into the first bend, I saw a Ducati and another bike crossing the track in the opposite direction to that which it goes. I felt a big smack on the side and I saw Hopkins flying, but I was still upright. I ended up in the sand and then another bike fell right in front of me and that’s when I finally went down. It’s what I didn’t want, I’m so disappointed because today I could have done a great race. I want to congratulate Makoto because he did a fantastic race. He’s a brilliant rider and also most importantly a friend.”

Sito Pons, Camel Honda (Team Principal):
“We are delighted for Makoto Tamada. This is the third victory of the year for the Camel Honda team. This is an important result for the team, for Honda and for our partners, but also because winning in Japan has a special flavour to it. I feel for Max, he could have fought for victory but, like in Estoril, hopes were dashed on the first lap of the race. We took the pole and won the race sponsored by Camel, our team’s title sponsor, and that’s a massive satisfaction.”

Tohru Ukawa, HRC RC211V Honda:
“I’m disappointed. I tried to avoid the multiple crash and was down in 13th place. My lap times were the same as the front group so I pushed very hard but crashed at turn 3 on the ninth lap when the front end tucked under. My machine ran very well and I marked the top the top speed in the race.”

Colin Edwards, Telefonica MoviStar Honda, dnf - crash:
“It was a real shame because the bike was perfect and I felt really good here. I think I could have fought for the podium but what can you do? I went down completely unexpectedly – just as I did last year with Hopkins. The only positive thing is that two Japanese guys finished on the podium here in Japan.”

MotoGP World Championship Grand Prix Round 12
Grand Prix of the Japan, Motegi

1 Makoto TAMADA (Camel Honda)
2 Valentino ROSSI (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha)
3 Shinya NAKANO (Kawasaki Racing Team)
4 Alex BARROS (Repsol Honda Team)
5 Marco MELANDRI (Fortuna Gauloises Tech 3)
6 Sete GIBERNAU (Telefonica Movistar Honda Mot)
7 Carlos CHECA (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha)
8 Neil HODGSON (D'Antin MotoGP)
9 Ruben XAUS (D'Antin MotoGP)
10 Alex HOFMANN (Kawasaki Racing Team)
11 Olivier JACQUE (Moriwaki WCM)
12 Jeremy McWILLIAMS (MS Aprilia Racing)
13 Shane BYRNE (MS Aprilia Racing)
14 Nobuatsu AOKI (Proton Team KR)
15 Youichi UI (HARRIS WCM)

Makoto TAMADA (Camel Honda)
1 Daniel PEDROSA (Telefonica Movistar Honda 250)
2 Toni ELIAS (Fortuna Honda)
3 Hiroshi AOYAMA (Telefonica Movistar Honda 250)
4 Sebastian PORTO (Repsol - Aspar Team 250cc)
5 Yuki TAKAHASHI (Dydo Miu Racing)
6 Alex DE ANGELIS (Aprilia Racing)
7 Roberto ROLFO (Fortuna Honda)
8 Shuhei AOYAMA (Team Harc-Pro)
9 Franco BATTAINI (Campetella Racing)
10 Alex DEBON (Wurth Honda BQR)
11 Randy DE PUNIET (Safilo Carrera - LCR)
12 Yuzo FUJIOKA (Endurance)
13 Naoki MATSUDO (Team UGT Kurz)
14 Hugo MARCHAND (Freesoul Abruzzo Racing Team)
15 Hector FAUBEL (Grefusa - Aspar Team 250cc)
1 Andrea DOVIZIOSO (Kopron Team Scot)
2 Fabrizio LAI (Metis Gilera Racing Team)
3 Simone CORSI (Kopron Team Scot)
4 Mirko GIANSANTI (Matteoni Racing)
5 Steve JENKNER (Rauch Bravo)
6 Marco SIMONCELLI (Rauch Bravo)
7 Jorge LORENZO (Caja Madrid Derbi Racing)
8 Gabor TALMACSI (Semprucci Malaguti)
9 Tomoyoshi KOYAMA (SP Tadao Racing Team)
10 Toshihisa KUZUHARA (Angaia Racing)
11 Gino BORSOI ( Racing)
12 Thomas Luthi (Elit Grand Prix)
13 Sergio GADEA (Master - Repsol Team 125cc)
14 Roberto LOCATELLI (Safilo Carrera - LCR)
15 Vesa KALLIO (Team Hungary)

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