In a dramatic day of fast and hot racing both Kawasaki riders, Shinya Nakano and Alex Hofmann, failed to finish todayfs Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi.

The Kawasaki team had held high hopes for their home race, seeking to back-up the brilliant third place podium finish by Nakano at this race last year.

A huge crowd of 68,000 spectators, basking in warm and humid weather, watched today's 24-lap race, which was finally won by Loris Capirossi.

From 14th on the grid Nakano started strongly and quickly raced ahead of Kenny Roberts and Colin Edwards and into 11th place.

Then for five laps Nakano pressured Honda riders Nicky Hayden and Alex Barros for a place in the top ten.

Just as Nakano felt he was positioned to make a move on his Honda rivals he suffered an engine problem, which forced his retirement on lap nine. A similar problem yesterday had cost Nakano the opportunity of a faster qualifying lap.

From 12th on the grid Hofmann was shuffled back in an early battle for track position on the tight, 4.8 km Motegi circuit. He settled in 16th position, right behind Tohru Ukawa and Roby Rolfo.

On lap three, as Hofmann tried to squeeze up the inside of Ukawa's Honda he collided with Rolfo in the turn and both ended the race in the gravel trap.

Hofmann underwent treatment in the circuit medical centre, where he was diagnosed with a broken bone in his left ankle.

The 25-year-old German will fly to Munich tomorrow (Monday), where he will undergo surgery on his fractured ankle. While he is certain to miss the next two races in Malaysia and Qatar, Hofmann hopes to make his racing return at the Australian Grand Prix, which is just one month away.

Despite the double setback today, the Kawasaki team is moving forward positively with a continuing technical development programme with the Ninja ZX-RR.

Shinya Nakano: #56 - DNF

"Not a good day for the Kawasaki Racing Team. In the first couple of laps I was able to overtake and move forward to 11th behind the Honda riders, Barros and Hayden, although we were a long way back and it was difficult to see the front group. I thought I had the potential to pass the Honda guys, but then I suffered the same problem with the engine as I suffered yesterday. At this track you are using low gears and high revs a lot during each lap. I like both Sepang and Doha, the next races, but we have to fix this problem if we want to see the chequered flag."
Ichiro Yoda: Technical Manager

"Motegi has not been easy for us, with a crash for Alex and some engine problems for Shinya. I understand the problem with Shinyafs motor, but we have to fix the problem before the next race."
Harald Eckl: Team Manager

"This has got to rate as one of Kawasaki's darkest days since we returned to the MotoGP World Championship three years ago. I understand that bad luck is a part of racing, but it's so disappointing that we had to have today's result in front of representatives from Kawasaki, including the chairman, Mr. Tazaki. Alex was strong in qualifying and deserved better today than another injury. But now we need to put today's disappointment behind us and concentrate on improving our results at the next two races in Malaysia and Doha."