MOTOGP WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP 2005
ROUND 4 - GRAND PRIX ALICE DE FRANCE, LE MANS
15 MAY 2005 - MOTOGP RACE
NAKANO EIGHTH IN TOUGH RACE AT LE MANS
Shinya Nakano brought his Kawasaki Ninja ZX-RR home in eighth place in today's French Grand Prix, after a difficult race on the Bugatti circuit at Le Mans.
After qualifying sixth on the second row, Nakano was anticipating challenging for a top five finish in the 28-lap event, which was watched by a near capacity crowd of 75,000.
However, a minor engine problem slowed his ZX-RR from mid-race, forcing Nakano to ride conservatively to ensure a top ten finish.
Teammate and crowd favourite, Olivier Jacque, received a tremendous ovation as he crossed the line in an impressive 11th place in his home race.
This was Jacque's first dry weather race on his Bridgestone-shod Ninja ZX-RR, as the replacement rider for the injured Alex Hofmann, and he continued his steep learning curve after a long layoff from racing.
Jacque started sharply and was quickly into 11th. He held off the factory Honda ridden by Troy Bayliss for 20 laps, before making a small mistake on the brakes at the second chicane.
Finishing strongly with a fast rhythm, Jacque set his fastest time on the penultimate lap as he chased Bayliss to the finish line.
Nakano also started strongly, and was into fifth place and ahead of eventual race winner and world champion Valentino Rossi after two laps.
After holding off a chasing pack Nakano slipped to eighth place, but by mid-race he suffered a small engine misfire that slowed his progress. Over the final laps Nakano held a safe gap of three seconds to Toni Elias, as he rode for valuable championship points.
Today marked the end of Jacque's temporary two-race appearance with Kawasaki, which was highlighted by his superb second place in the Chinese Grand Prix two weeks ago
|Shinya Nakano: #56 - Eighth
"My start was fast, I had a good feeling and tyre grip in the early laps and I felt comfortable. But for some laps I had trouble into turn one judging my braking point, I wasn't as fast as I usually am in this part of the track. Then, when my good feeling returned, I felt a small misfire with the engine and immediately thought that I must try and finish the race; I didn't score any points in China two weeks ago, so this was very important."
|Harald Eckl: Team Manager
"After Shinya's strong qualifying performance this result is a little disappointing for everyone in the team, as we expected a top six result was possible in the race. The technicians are still checking on Shinya's engine problem, but he heard some noise and felt a misfire, so he did the right thing to ride for points. As for OJ, he did another fantastic race for Kawasaki, with limited testing and practice in the dry. He is still learning about the Ninja ZX-RR and Bridgestone tyres, but he gave us a great result, second in China, which was obviously a highlight for the team."