MOTOGP WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP 2004
JAPANESE GRAND PRIX - MOTEGI
19TH SEPTEMBER 2004 - MOTOGP RACE RESULT
FIRST PODIUM FOR NAKANO AND KAWASAKI AT MOTEGI
In a superb home race performance for the Fuchs Kawasaki Racing Team, Shinya Nakano scored an historic third place podium finish in the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi today.
This is the best result for the factory Kawasaki team since they returned to MotoGP competition at the end of 2002 with the 990cc, inline four-cylinder Ninja ZX-RR.
Super Shinya's ride into third place equalled the last Kawasaki podium result in the elite category, with Kork Ballington's third place on a KR500 in the 1981 Finnish Grand Prix at Imatra. This was Nakano's second career MotoGP podium, his first coming in 2001 at the German Grand Prix.
The 26-year-old Japanese ace was backed-up today by his determined German team-mate, Alex Hofmann, who finished tenth; his second top ten result of the season.
From twelfth on the grid Nakano used his intimate local knowledge of the Motegi track to avoid the carnage of a six-rider, turn one pile-up just after the start. Realising the potential for a repeat of last year's similar accident, Nakano braked cautiously to take the inside line and emerge in fourth place on lap one.
Spurred on by cheering, Kawasaki flag waving fans, Nakano staged an absorbing 18-lap pursuit of Yamaha rival Marco Melandri in search of third place. The critical moment came at the end of the back straight on lap 19, when Nakano outbraked Melandri and then cut back inside as the Italian briefly went back in front.
Once clear in third place Nakano opened a gap and, over the final laps, was the fastest rider on track. The Fuchs Kawasaki rider finished ahead of the factory Honda V-five ridden by Alex Barros into fourth place.
Both Nakano and Tamada were using Bridgestone tyres, and Nakano's storming ride into third place provided Bridgestone with two riders on the podium for the first time in MotoGP.
After starting from 19th Hofmann was unsettled by the drama of the first turn crash, but recovered his rhythm to move into 10th place on lap twenty, a position he held to the chequered flag.
|Shinya Nakano: 3th
"This is a fantastic result for me, and for Kawasaki and Bridgestone. From the start I saw the accident coming, because turn one is very tight. I went up the inside and took fourth, then tried for many laps to pass Melandri without success. But late in the race I still had good grip from my rear tyre, and this is where I had the advantage. I knew Melandri would try and cut back inside, so I was ready for this. I could still do fast times at the end of the race, but the last lap was probably the longest in my racing life; I was just waiting for the chequered flag. I couldn't believe I was third."
|Harald Eckl: Team Manager
"The most important thing this afternoon was how much motivation this result provides for the future; today we saw the potential of the Ninja ZX-RR. I'm very happy for everyone in the Fuchs Kawasaki Racing Team, and also for Bridgestone, because there has been a great deal of hard work over recent months. Today it finally paid off. But without Shinya today this podium would not have been possible, he did a fantastic job. Alex rode consistently to be tenth, but he struggled to find his best rhythm this weekend, and we understand this. His time will come."