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Top ten historic moments of 2004: no. 8

Top ten historic moments of 2004: no. 8

Top ten historic moments of 2004: no. 8

The Camel Grand Prix of Japan will stand out in many people's minds; firstly for the first corner pile-up which claimed six riders and secondly for Makoto Tamada's famous home victory on Japanese tyres with Japanese machinery.

However, for Kawasaki fans all over the world the 2004 race at Motegi will never be forgotten, as the factory celebrated their first podium finish in MotoGP with a fantastic ride to third place from Shinya Nakano. Two years on from their return to Grand Prix racing with wildcard Akira Yanagawa on a prototype version of the Ninja ZX-RR, the Fuchs Kawasaki Racing Team rider's effort was up there with Valentino Rossi's opening race win in South Africa.

Spurred on by enormous banks of green, flag-waving fans in the grandstands, Nakano staged an absorbing 18-lap pursuit of Yamaha rival Marco Melandri. The critical moment came at the end of the back straight on lap 19, when Nakano outbraked Melandri and then cut back inside as the Italian briefly went back in front.

Nakano's ride into third place equalled the last Kawasaki podium result in the premier-class, with Kork Ballington's third place on a KR500 in the 1981 Finnish Grand Prix at Imatra, and team manager Harald Eckl was quick to praise his rider.

"The most important thing this afternoon was how much motivation this result provides for the future today we saw the potential of the Ninja ZX-RR," said Eckl after the race. "I'm very happy for everyone in the Fuchs Kawasaki Racing Team, and also for Bridgestone, because there has been a great deal of hard work over recent months. Today it finally paid off. But without Shinya today this podium would not have been possible, he did a fantastic job."

Nakano was equally delighted having dodged the first corner pile-up to record his second career MotoGP podium, his first coming in 2001 at the Sachsenring on a Yamaha.

"This is a fantastic result for me, and for Kawasaki and Bridgestone. From the start I saw the accident coming, because turn one is very tight. I went up the inside and took fourth, then tried for many laps to pass Melandri without success. But late in the race I still had good grip from my rear tyre, and this is where I had the advantage. I knew Melandri would try and cut back inside, so I was ready for this.

"I could still do fast times at the end of the race, but the last lap was probably the longest in my racing life; I was just waiting for the chequered flag. I couldn't believe I was third".

MotoGP, 2005

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