MOTOGP WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP 2004
GRAN PREMIO MARLBORO DE ESPANA - CIRCUITO DE JEREZ
2ND MAY 2004 - MOTOGP RACE RESULT


TOP TEN FOR NAKANO AS HOFMANN SCORES FIRST POINTS

Shinya Nakano gave the Fuchs Kawasaki Racing Team their first top ten finish of the season, as he overcame atrocious weather conditions at the Circuito de Jerez this afternoon to bring his Ninja ZX-RR home in an impressive ninth place.

The Jerez circuit may have been enshrouded by rain clouds this morning, but the unseasonably wet weather wasn't enough to dampen the enthusiasm of the Spanish fans. With thousands of Spaniards packing the roads around Jerez, many of the teams and riders competing in today's Spanish Grand Prix were forced to abandon their vehicles by the side of the road and walk the last four kilometres into the circuit; to the accompaniment of a symphony orchestra of car and bike horns.

With a damp track for morning warm up, opinion amongst the riders as to which tyres would suit the conditions best was split. Most, including Shinya Nakano and Alex Hofmann, opted for a full wet set up, while a small minority also tested an intermediate or cut slick in the rear towards the end of the session. But there were to be no such problems with tyre choice for the race, as the rain returned with a vengeance mid-morning, and it was still falling as the MotoGP riders exited pit lane to take their place on the grid for today's 27-lap Spanish Grand Prix.

Starting from the second row of the grid, Nakano was unlucky to find himself pushed back down the field at the first turn, after getting boxed in on the inside of the corner by the battle for the lead. The 26-year-old Japanese rider wasted no time in fighting back, but by the time he'd worked his way through the traffic the leading group of riders had already pulled out a considerable gap at the front of the field. From that point on it was a lonely race for the Fuchs Kawasaki rider. Unable to close the gap on the frontrunners, and with a comfortable advantage over his pursuers, Nakano was left with just the rain and the cold for company as he endured a few scary moments on his way to equalling Kawasaki's best ever result in MotoGP.

After a disappointing start from the fifth row of the grid, Alex Hofmann found himself held up by slower riders as he tried to make up places during the early stages of the race. No sooner had the 23-year-old German fought his way through the pack to find a clear track ahead of him than the rain got heavier and aquaplaning through the standing water on some parts of the track started to become a serious - and somewhat scary - problem. Having crashed out of the opening race of the season in South Africa, and with the slides getting longer and more frequent, Hofmann made the decision not to risk all and, instead, bring his Ninja ZX-RR home in a safe 13th place, to collect his first championship points of the season.

Shinya Nakano: 9th

"We knew it was going to be hard work if it rained today, and we weren't wrong. I didn't feel too confident in the wet, so I was unable to stay with the leading group of riders when they started to pull out a gap at the start of the race. But I gave it 100 per cent and tried to keep my lap times as consistent as possible. When the rain got heavier towards the middle of the race I started to have some grip problems. I lost the rear many times in the race, but the biggest scare came on the final lap. The bike went completely sideways and I was convinced I was going to crash. Luckily it came back to me and I was able to make it to the chequered flag. I would have much preferred a dry race, but despite the conditions, we still managed to achieve our aim of a top ten finish this afternoon."
Harald Eckl: Team Manager

"I'm happy that both of our riders finished in the points in a race run under such difficult conditions. Shinya achieved his aim of a top ten finish, but I can't help thinking that if the weather had stayed dry, and he'd been able to use the Bridgestone slicks that proved so competitive here on Friday, he would have finished even higher up the order. Both riders need to learn to be a little more aggressive off the start. Shinya lost quite a few positions after getting boxed in at the first turn and a bad start from Alex meant that he got stuck behind slower riders in the opening laps. Having said that, I think both riders will be fairly happy with their results today; Shinya clinched our first top ten finish of the season, while Alex stayed on the bike to claim his first championship points of the year."