Carneval for Bridgestone: Pole position, lap record and first MotoGP victory RIO DE JANEIRO (July 4, 2004) - The Rio Grand Prix turned into "Carneval" for the Bridgestone Motorsport program, climaxed by the first MotoGP victory for the tire...
Carneval for Bridgestone: Pole position, lap record and first MotoGP victory
RIO DE JANEIRO (July 4, 2004) - The Rio Grand Prix turned into "Carneval" for the Bridgestone Motorsport program, climaxed by the first MotoGP victory for the tire supplier since it joined the elite motorcycle racing series in 2002.
The first celebration of the weekend took place when Suzuki star Kenny Roberts stunned his competitors with a blindingly fast final lap in qualifying, taking a surprising pole position ahead of four Honda riders despite their superior engine power. The former world champion confirmed his good shape with seventh place in the race, his best result so far this season.
But there was more to come for Bridgestone. Makoto Tamada dominated the free practice session Saturday morning, pushing his Camel Honda to the best lap time on a slick tire that had done 18 laps already. As race conditions could be expected to be similar due to the earlier starting time of 11:30 a.m. Sunday, hopes for a strong result were high within Tamada's team and his Bridgestone tire crew. But nobody dreamed of a display of such supremacy.
Seventh after one lap, Tamada pushed ahead relentlessly, marking the new lap record on the Nelson Piquet racetrack in the battle with Valentino Rossi on lap seven. By mid-race, Tamada had taken third place from the current world champion, took second spot from Nicky Hayden soon after, and left the best for last.
Four laps from the end, Tamada swept past Camel Honda teammate Max Biaggi in the last right-hand corner of the track, and extended his lead to more than two seconds by the time he crossed the finish line. The Rio success was the first-ever MotoGP victory for Bridgestone and Tamada, after celebrating their first podium finish on the Nelson Piquet track last year. Roberts' pole position was Bridgestone's first best time in a MotoGP qualification, but not in the blue ribbon class of motorcycle racing: Jeremy McWilliams had ridden to pole position aboard a Bridgestone-fitted 500cc Proton KR 3 at the Australian Grand Prix 2002.
Makoto Tamada, Camel Honda, 1st position: "I chose a new rear tire shape that was only introduced at Assen last week, so there were not so many compounds available. But from the first free practice session on, I knew that I didn't have to keep looking because this tire performed flawlessly, and we concentrated entirely on a set-up that would suit this kind of tire - with a fantastic result in the end. My only worry was that the track temperature seemed to rise more than we had anticipated, but in the end, there was no problem - I had good and consistent grip on the rear, and I also had an advantage on the front. Whereas Biaggi was pushing the front in the long corners, I was able to keep my own tight line without a problem. Catching up to Max was a tough piece of work, but once I got close to him, he was easy prey - planned my move for the last right-hand corner on the track, and overtook easily. I decided to keep on pushing after that in order to make sure he couldn't get back on me, but at the same time, I got very nervous. I never got nervous in my life before, but winning the first Moto Grand Prix is certainly something very special. I want to thank Bridgestone and my team for the great support I've had, and I want to dedicate this victory to my great friend Daijiro Kato. July 4th is his birthday, and since I saw this year's Grand Prix calendar for the very first time, I really wanted to win this race for him. I am glad and relieved that it happened this way!"
Hiroshi Yamada, Motorcycle Racing Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport: "What a fantastic weekend: Pole position, lap record, victory, all of our riders within the point rankings, and three of them in the top 10 - that is clearly our best result ever, and exceeds all our expectations. Makoto's team did a marvelous job, squeezing more than 100 percent of their performance out of our tires. Makoto himself was cool and concentrated and had things under control from the start to the finish. I want to thank the teams, the riders and all our people in the technical center who worked day and night to overcome the problems we have had at the Mugello Grand Prix. This weekend shows that we recovered completely, and it also shows the power of Bridgestone as a company. Our first target was a MotoGP podium, which we achieved last year. Our second target was a MotoGP victory, which happened today. From now on, we are working towards our ultimate goal of winning the MotoGP championship!"
Akira Nishimura, General Manager, Bridgestone Tire Corporation: "This is our first victory in our third year in MotoGP racing, and we are extremely happy with today's result. Makoto did a superb job and rode aggressively throughout the race. I thank everyone in Makoto's Camel Honda Team and Pramac for all their hard work, and to Honda for always giving us excellent advice. With this victory as our motivation, Bridgestone will continue to further develop tires to contribute to the growth and success of the racing industry!"
Bridgestone Results: 1. Makoto Tamada (JAP), Honda, 44.21,976; 7. Kenny Roberts (USA), Suzuki, 44.45,469; 9. Shinya Nakano (JPN), Kawasaki, 44.49,778; 11. Alex Hofmann (GER), Kawasaki, 44.59, 689; 15. John Hopkins (USA), Suzuki, 45.32,272.