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Aoki takes first points on Proton V5 at home race

Aoki takes first points on Proton V5 at home race

Aoki takes first points on Proton V5 at home race

Team Proton KR rider Nobuatsu Aoki claimed a landmark fourteenth place in yesterday's Gauloises Pacific Grand Prix of Motegi, claiming the first ever points for the Proton KR V5 in only its seventh race. The result came after a strong race, with the Japanese rider rewarding his home fans with a fighting performance. Hampered in the early stages with a heavy fuel load, Aoki dropped back to 16th but fought back in the second half of the race and passed two-time Motegi winner Kenny Roberts Jr with two laps remaining. Aoki crossed the line in 15th, but was promoted to 14th after the disqualification of Makoto Tamada.

"It wasn't an easy race," explained a relieved Aoki afterwards. "My back tyre was not working so well, but it seems everyone was having some problems with grip. For the first 15 laps I was struggling. With a heavy fuel load, the chassis was not working so well. In the last ten laps, the chassis was getting better and better, stopping and turning better. Then I could start to push. I could see Kenny Roberts Jr. in front, and he was 15th, and I really wanted the position to get in the points, so I was trying very hard.

"Then Olivier Jacque went onto the gravel and came back to the track to join the battle with us. I was able to follow him and improve my lap time by maybe half a second, and we caught Kenny. I finally passed him under braking for the first esses. Then on the last lap I started to suffer from fuel surging – but fortunately I was able to finish without losing the place. I really appreciate the efforts of the team, and the support from the Japanese spectators, and of course I am very pleased to score the first points for the four-stroke."

Team Owner Kenny Roberts was understandably happy with Aoki's performance, revealing that a technical problem was the cause for second rider Jeremy McWilliams' crash. "Getting in the points is a start," said the former three-time World Champion. "Nobu did a good job, and the team also. Jeremy is complaining about the brakes, and I guess it's because of the front fender that they run too hot … but it makes the engine run cooler. We're working at these things step by step, and we thought we had it solved. But apparently we haven't. Jeremy uses the brakes a lot harder than Nobu. It's one of those things".

MotoGP, 2003

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