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Motegi the first stop for MotoGP's orient express

Motegi the first stop for MotoGP's orient express

Motegi the first stop for MotoGP's orient express

The MotoGP World Championship stopped off at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit in Japan today in preparation for the first of four ‘flyaway' races in five weeks across Asia, the Middle East and Australia. The trip across the orient represents a crucial stage in the season for the MotoGP teams and riders, with a maximum haul of 100 points on offer before the final round at Valencia in Spain and titles up for grabs in all three of the Grand Prix categories.

The Camel Grand Prix of Japan sees current MotoGP World Champion and series leader Valentino Rossi return to the home of Honda, the factory he turned his back on at the end of last season in favour of a switch to their great rivals Yamaha.

The Italian today admitted it would be a tough task to overcome a legion of six regular Honda riders, plus wildcard Tohru Ukawa, at their own private testing ground as he looks to extend a 29-point advantage over Sete Gibernau at the top of the standings.

"It will be difficult, like always, maybe more," said Rossi, who finished second here last season after running off track.

"Last year there were four Hondas in the top four, it was a great battle – not only with Biaggi and Gibernau, also Tamada and Hayden. Last year also Melandri had a good race with Yamaha, he finished fifth, so maybe our bike is not so bad here. The weather is good today, we just have to hope it stays like this all weekend."

Whilst Gibernau will be desperate to make up points on Rossi after finishing fourth at the last round in Portugal, the man on form at the moment is local hero Makoto Tamada. The Japanese rider, who finished second to Rossi at Estoril after starting from pole for the first time, is currently in the best form of his career and made no secret of his intentions today.

"To be honest I think I am in perfect shape," declared Tamada, who was disqualified from the race last season for colliding with Gibernau after finishing third. "The tyres suit the track and so does the bike. I have come here to win and that is exactly what I intend to do. Valentino had too much fun with me in the last race – this time I plan to have fun with him."

Tamada is not the only Japanese rider looking to make an impression this weekend, Shinya Nakano making his first appearance on home soil with Kawasaki. Like Tamada, Nakano is running Bridgestone tyres and is placing his optimism in the Japanese rubber manufacturer.

"I went to the Bridgestone factory yesterday and they promised me they have a special Motegi tyre," commented Nakano. "I know the fans are excited about this race and I want to show Kawasaki's potential here."

To watch the pre-event press conference in full, click the video link at the top of the page.

Tags:
MotoGP, 2004, CAMEL GRAND PRIX OF JAPAN

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