After American Kenny Roberts Jr. qualified on pole position on his Bridgestone-shod Suzuki, the MotoGP paddock knew Bridgestone tires were going to be a force to be reckoned with. Although Roberts Junior's lap time was the fastest ever for a ...
After American Kenny Roberts Jr. qualified on pole position on his Bridgestone-shod Suzuki, the MotoGP paddock knew Bridgestone tires were going to be a force to be reckoned with. Although Roberts Junior's lap time was the fastest ever for a motorcycle (1:48.418), his times on race tires were not as impressive, which meant he was going to struggle during the race. But qualifying provided us with even more surprises.
For example, fellow American Nicky Hayden shared the front row, next to Max Biaggi in second. For the first time in 2004, Sete Gibernau was off the front row in fifth place. To Gibernau's left side, in fourth, was Alex Barros; and to his right was Loris Capirossi. Leading the third row was Japanese sensation, Makoto Tamada. Next to the Camel rider sat, championship leader, Valentino Rossi in eight place. Rounding up the third row was Kawasaki's Shinya Nakano.
But if qualifying was not enough to make things interesting, the race quickly solved this.
Max Biaggi, the Roman Emperor, got the hole-shot with Roberts Jr. and Hayden chasing him. But Biaggi's lead only lasted one corner, as Roberts Jr. quickly wrestled the lead from the Roman. Barros made a good start chasing third place Hayden, followed by Rossi, Gibernau, Tamada, Melandri and Edwards in ninth place. With half a lap in the books, Edwards went to work on Melandri to take over eighth.
Gibernau knew he had to pass Rossi if he was to take over the championship lead, and the Spaniard quickly got to the task of passing the Italian on the inside of turn six. A bit farther ahead, The Suzuki of Roberts Jr. was clearly under power, as the Hondas of Biaggi and Hayden swallowed him up on the back straight, relegating him to third.
As promised, surprises were on the way, and the first one was Gibernau's front-end slide out of the race on the penultimate corner of the second lap. With Rossi and Gibernau tied in the champion points table (Rossi leading by virtue of race wins), Gibernau's crash automatically handed the championship lead to Rossi. While Gibernau was unhurt, he was well aware of how costly his mistake had been.
Roberts Jr. began to fall back, as he was again overtaken on the back straight; this time by Barros's Honda. The second faller of the race was Ducati Corse rider, Troy Bayliss, who was uninjured but clearly very upset.
Tamada's intentions were very clear even at this stage of the race; as the Japanese rider out-braked Rossi at the start of lap four into turn one. However, the Japanese ran wide, which allowed Rossi to re-gain fifth place.
Rossi felt the pressure from Tamada, and in an effort to put some space between him, he past Robert Jr. for fourth. Ahead of Rossi, the leadership remained unchanged, Biaggi leading, Hayden in second and Barros in third. Roberts Junior's curse also remained unchanged as the American was again overtaken on the back straight, this time by Tamada.
Rossi had a dilemma, settle for fourth, or go for the win. But if you have followed Rossi's ascend, you know he does not settle, overtaking Barros for third. Rossi's hope of delaying Tamada's charge by having Barros between them only lasted half a lap, as Tamada used his first corner out-braking maneuver to get past Barros for fourth.
To say that Tamada could overtake anyone into turn one is an understatement. Almost on command, Tamada attempted to overtake Rossi into turn one at the beginning of lap ten, only to have Rossi shut the door on the Camel rider. Knowing that only way to get to turn one first was to out-brake Tamada, Rossi ran wide, handing third place to Tamada at the start of the 11th lap.
Tamada's mission was not simply to finish on the podium, his sights were set higher, as he out-braked Hayden into turn one to take over second place.
Rossi had complained all weekend long about the Yamaha's setup for Brazil. Although he had a good pace (mid 1:50s and a few high 1:49s), he and his crew knew it would be a very difficult race. So the question was, just how difficult of a race would it be. The answer came in lap 12, Rossi loosing the rear-end of his Yamaha as he crashed out of the race.
With the two championship protagonists out of the race, the pressure was on Biaggi to close up the championship gap of 39 points. And pressure he was under, as Tamada continued on his quest to taking the top step of a MotoGP podium for the first time.
Not too far back, Barros lost fourth place to Capirossi aboard the Ducati GP4, an excellent position for the diminutive Italian.
Tamada patiently waited behind Biaggi, almost as if he knew his tires would be in better shape at the end of the race. At the end of lap 20, Tamada decided it was time to lead, overtaking his teammate going into the last corner that leads into the front straight.
Race positions would not change; Tamada taking his first ever MotoGP win, Biaggi settling for second and Hayden for third. Capirossi kept his fourth spot, followed by Barros; Edwards again finishing sixth.
The MotoGP championship moves back to Europe in two weeks.
Brazil GP MotoGP race results:
1. Makoto Tamada, Honda
2. Max Biaggi, Honda, -2.019 seconds
3. Nicky Hayden, Honda, -5.764
4. Loris Capirossi, Ducati, -11.145
5. Alex Barros, Honda, -12.951
6. Colin Edwards, Honda, -13.904
7. Kenny Roberts, Suzuki, -23.493
8. Norick Abe, Yamaha, -27.498
9. Shinya Nakano, Kawasaki, -27.802
10. Carlos Checa, Yamaha, -36.808
11. Alex Hofmann, Kawasaki, -37.713
12. Ruben Xaus, Ducati, -48.924
13. Marco Melandri, Yamaha, -57.102
14. Jeremy McWilliams, Aprilia, -63.046
15. John Hopkins, Suzuki, -70.296, crash
16. Neil Hodgson, Ducati, -72.548
17. Shane Byrne, Aprilia, -79.734
18. Nobuatsu Aoki, Proton KR, -91.512
19. Kurtis Roberts, Proton KR, -103.627
20. Chris Burns, Harris WCM, -1 lap
21. Valentino Rossi, Yamaha, DNF, crash, -12 laps
22. David De Gea, Harris WCM, DNF, crash, -17 laps
23. Troy Bayliss, Ducati, DNF, crash, -21 laps
24. Sete Gibernau, Honda, DNF, crash, -23 laps