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Randy Mamola looks back on Brazil

Randy Mamola looks back on Brazil

Randy Mamola looks back on Brazil

Well, who would have thought that we would be leaving Rio on Sunday night with both Valentino Rossi and Sete Gibernau still on the same 126 points? It was a major surprise and an amazing race, with a superb victory for Makoto Tamada at the end of it.

Congratulations to Makoto and, of course, to Bridgestone, who have performed a massive turnaround to go from disaster at Mugello just three races ago, when Shinya Nakano crashed at 300km/h with a tyre blow-out and Tamada lost his chance of fighting for victory with a similar defect, to taking their first pole position and first victory in the same weekend.

The result of Sunday's race seems like a surprise, but when you look at the 2003 result and take out Rossi and Gibernau, there is an uncanny similarity. Whilst Rossi and Gibernau took the top two places, they were followed across the line by Makoto Tamada, Max Biaggi, Nicky Hayden and Loris Capirossi. On Sunday the same four riders took the top four places in the same order, with an almost identical time difference between them!

It is impossible to say what would have happened if Sete and Valentino hadn't have crashed and we can speculate all day on that, but in my opinion Tamada would have won anyway. Watching him out there in the race, he looked as if he was riding on a rail, the grip from those tyres was just unbelievable, and I don't think anybody could have matched his pace in the last part of the race.

On paper the fastest men out there were Gibernau and Biaggi and if you would have asked me before the race, my favourite was Gibernau. I wasn't sure if Max could keep the pace up for the whole race but, as we saw, he did just that and it would have been a close battle between the two for second place. Rossi, I think, would have been up there with them and battling for the podium.

Valentino obviously had to push hard and he would have been fighting to beat Gibernau and hang on to the series lead, which makes it all the more strange to me that he crashed with Sete already out of the race, instead of easing off and riding for points. It's been suggested to me that if he wanted to make sure of the title in that way, he could have stayed at Honda, and we all saw the way he rode at Phillip Island to win his first MotoGP title in 2001, beating Biaggi to take victory on the last lap with two races still to go.

But for me that was different. On that occasion he knew that if it all went wrong he still had Malaysia and Rio to win the title. Right now he doesn't know how crucial the points he lost on Sunday could prove to be. I'm not criticising Rossi, because he is the World Champion, but we have seen already this season at Jerez and Le Mans that he is also happy to ride for fourth place if he has to and I was just surprised he didn't take that option this time.

Anyway, moving slightly further down the field, I thought it was an excellent weekend for Kenny Roberts Jr, who set pole position with a perfect lap on Saturday and did everything he could to stay at the front in the race. Kenny led for the opening couple of laps, but the joke in the paddock was that Suzuki's Team Manager Garry Taylor will have to buy him some new stickers for the Sachsenring after those three Hondas ripped them off down the back straight.

In any case, it was a good performance from Kenny and another sign that Suzuki are making improvements with their race pace, which was a second a lap off challenging for the win.

To be fair, there have been improvements all the way down the field, and if you compare the race times from this year to last September the difference is remarkable. For example, any of the riders down to Colin Edwards in fifth place would have won the race last year with their time on Sunday, and unfortunately the pace at the front often puts the progress being made further down the field into the shade a little bit.

Just look at Kawasaki and Shinya Nakano, who was eight seconds quicker this year than he was in 2003 with the Yamaha, whilst even further back, riding the the Aprilia, Jeremy McWilliams was five seconds faster than Edwards was on the same bike last year.

Perhaps the most disappointing performance was that of Ruben Xaus, who has been in great form so far this season but was almost 20 seconds down on Loris Capirossi's 2003 time on the Ducati. As I say, it was only disappointing because of Ruben's outstanding recent performances, and he still beat his team-mate Neil Hodgson by a long way.

Now we head to Sachsenring in Germany for round eight with Rossi and Gibernau exactly where they were before Brazil, tied on 126 points. It promises to be another massive race, with memories still fresh of Gibernau's victory there last year, when he beat Rossi on the final corner, and it will be another interesting chapter in the relationship between the two riders.

On that note, I'll leave you with a little story from Rio airport on Sunday night. As I was sat in the departure lounge, waiting for the flight with Sete and Nicky Hayden, Valentino came walking past and I caught an awkward glance between him and Sete. It was probably the first time they had seen each other properly since the podium at Assen, when there was a bit of bad feeling over Rossi's pass.

Neither of them seemed to know what to say, but Sete broke the ice. "I don't know who's more dumb – me or you," he said.

Rossi smiled back and replied: "I think we both win the first prize for that one."

See you in Germany, Randy

MotoGP, 2004

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