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Nakano celebrates birthday with eighth

Nakano celebrates birthday with eighth

Nakano celebrates birthday with eighth

Shinya Nakano celebrated his 27th birthday with eighth place in the Marlboro Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday, another top ten finish which consolidates the recent progress made by Kawasaki. The Japanese rider started the day with something of a surprise when he returned to the pit box after morning warm-up to find a huge birthday cake filling the space where he'd normally park his Ninja ZX-RR.

But even a birthday couldn't distract Nakano from thinking about the afternoon's 21-lap race and he insisted on debriefing his crew chief on the warm up session before getting down to the task of blowing out candles and slicing up the cake for his crew.

"We had a few problems with one of the bikes in warm-up, so I was thinking about that as I turned into the pit box," commented Nakano. "As you can imagine, I wasn't expecting to come face to face with a giant birthday cake!"

"It was a nice surprise after a warm-up session that was interrupted by a minor electrical problem with the bike. I was just trying as hard as I could to repeat the success we had in Motegi, because champagne is easily the best drink to have with birthday cake!"

However, after starting on the front row of the grid for the first time on the Kawasaki, Nakano was swamped on the long charge into turn one, and he then lost more time on a crowded track as riders bumped and pushed for track positions through the switchback into turn two.

Nakano was tenth at the end of lap one and, once clear of the Ducati of Troy Bayliss on lap four, he settled into a long chase of the group ahead, including Sete Gibernau, Makoto Tamada and Carlos Checa.

Nakano was running at the same pace as his factory rivals, but had conceded too much time on the opening lap to make a major impact. In a last ditch attack the Japanese ace secured eighth place with two laps remaining, when he passed Checa's Yamaha and finished just one second behind Tamada in fifth place.

"My start was not so good, and then turn one was very busy and I touched another rider - it was very close," explained Nakano. "It took me three laps to pass Bayliss and that cost me more time, but my bike and tyres were working as normal.

"I was riding at my maximum and so were Sete, Makoto and Carlos, so it is very difficult to overtake - the ZX-RR just needs a little more traction off the turns to give us a chance on the straights. The conditions were very difficult, but I'm quite happy, even though I expected more after starting third."

However, the 21-lap race, with track temperatures reaching 50 degrees, was a major disappointment for German rider Alex Hofmann who did not finish. Hofmann was forced into the pits on lap eight with a minor electrical problem on his Ninja ZX-RR.

"My bike didn't feel normal from the start, and even on the first lap it felt like the motor was not running smoothly. It is hard enough on a fast track with long straights when everything is perfect, but the electrical problem just got worse, I had no chance of riding any faster. It is very disappointing because I really like this track, and I had a lot of confidence in my race set-up after Friday and Saturday."

Tags:
MotoGP, 2004, MARLBORO MALAYSIAN MOTORCYCLE GRAND PRIX, Shinya Nakano

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