Kawasaki were arguably the revelation of the 2004 MotoGP season, advancing from the rear of the field the previous season to become regularly features in the top ten - and leading the team green attack was star rider Shinya Nakano, recruited from d'Antin Yamaha at the end of 2003.

Crash.net caught up with Shinya at the recent NEC motorcycle show in the UK to ask the 27-year-old about his first season on the ZX-RR, in which the multiple 250cc GP winner achieved his goal of finishing in the championship top ten with seventh place at the final round in Valencia.

"I'm happy with my first season with Kawasaki," began Shinya. "It was a really challenging season for me, because everything was new - the bike, tyres, engine and of course the team. My target was to get a podium and finish in the top ten in the championship and I did it - so it was a good season."

And the highlight of that 'good season' was undoubtedly Nakano handing Kawasaki that first ever MotoGP podium, in his and the Japanese company's home race, at Motegi (pictured).

"It was great to get the podium in front of Kawasaki Japan, all the Kawasaki people and the Japanese fans," admitted Nakano with a smile.

But three-months earlier Nakano had suffered the shock of a high-speed tyre failure during the Italian Grand Prix, which threw him down the Mugello home straight at almost 200mph and destroyed his ZX-RR.

Amazingly, Nakano escaped without major injury, and then demonstrated his fierce determination - often hidden behind his polite demeanour - by getting back on his race bike just five days later, at the Catalan Grand Prix. The #56 went on to finish seventh in the event - his best result of the year at that point - but how was he able to put such a massive accident behind him so quickly?

"It was for sure really hard," reflected Nakano. "It was really difficult to come back and ride again just one week after, but I just tried to concentrate and I put my trust in the team and the tyres. I'm a professional rider so I just tried my best and concentrated on riding."

Nakano scored a total of 83-points during the 2004 season - a massive 72 more than the best Kawasaki rider (Garry McCoy) the year before. Shinya and team-mate Alex Hofmann also propelled Kawasaki up from seventh in the 2003 manufacturers' world championship to fourth in 2004.

Shinya cited chassis improvements as the main factor in transforming the fortunes of his team - and believes Kawasaki should now concentrate on engine development to make the next step forward in 2005.

"Everything improved throughout this year but, compared with last year's bike, I think the chassis is the big difference," he explained. "It's a lot smaller, more compact, and it really helped with the handling."

"I think we should work on the engine side (for 2005)," he added. "Already the engine is powerful enough, on a MotoGP bike, but that's why we need better driveability."

And work on such progress will continue during Kawasaki's next test, at Jerez on November 23-25, and then at the Paul Ricard circuit in France:

"I'm going back to Japan for two weeks, but then we'll go to Spain, Jerez, and test again and then I think we'll go to Paul Ricard for a wet test. They have a special track where they can simulate wet weather conditions," he revealed. "Then I think I'll have one month's holiday in Japan. I also have to train so maybe not so much of a holiday. But I'll enjoy it."

Finally, having achieved his pre-season targets for 2004, what is Shinya's 2005 goal?

"My target is to finish, why not, in the top six in the championship," he declared.

The full interview with Shinya Nakano can be found in the Crash.net radio archive...

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