A dramatic day in the sunshine confirmed the arrival of a new MotoGP star and further proof that Valentino Rossi
is on course to bring the World title to Yamaha after an 11-year wait.
Makoto Tamada sent the 70,000 crowd wild by winning the Camel Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi on a wonderful day for Honda and Bridgestone tyres. He was a comfortable winner from the Gauloises Yamaha of Rossi but the Italian was smiling after increasing his lead in the championship to 39 points, with just four rounds remaining.
Shinya Nakano completed the Japanese joy by putting the Kawasaki on the MotoGP podium for the very first time, taking full advantage of a six-rider crash on the first bend. Loris Capirossi, the Suzukis of John Hopkins
and Kenny Roberts, the Hondas of Colin Edwards, Nicky Hayden
and most significantly Max Biaggi, whose second successive first lap crash wrecked his championship chances, all went down in a cloud of carbon fibre and dust.
Roberts is ruled out of the Marlboro Qatar Grand Prix in 13 days time with a dislocated elbow, team-mate Hopkins is doubtful after breaking two ribs while Capirossi, who many people thought was responsible for the carnage, escaped with a broken toe.
Rossi and Tamada, riding the Camel Honda, pulled away at the front while things were sorted out behind them. Tamada passed the World Champion and as Rossi slowed with sliding tyres, raced away to win his second grand prix of the season by an impressive six seconds.
"A great day for all of us," said Tamada after his home victory. "Once I passed Valentino I was able to pull away because the Bridgestone tyres were so good throughout the race."
Rossi admitted there was nothing he could do to prevent the emerging MotoGP star win his second grand prix.
"I don't like finishing second but with Sete Gibernau
only finishing sixth and Max Biaggi out on the first lap, it was a good day for the championship," explained Valentino. "I tried to stay with Makoto but the bike was sliding and so I had to slow to secure the 20 points."
Alex Barros was a disappointing fourth, recovering from a bad start to lead the Fortuna Yamaha of Marco Melandri
with Gibernau sixth. The Spanish Telefonica Movistar Honda rider was plagued with tyre problems throughout the weekend and dropped another ten points behind Rossi in the title chase.Top ten
1. Makoto Tamada
2. Valentino Rossi
3. Shinya Nakano
4. Alex Barros
5. Marco Melandri
6. Sete Gibernau
7. Carlos Checa
8. Neil Hodgson
9. Ruben Xaus
10. Alex Hoffman