With no disrespect to Valentino Rossi and Sete Gibernau, Makoto Tamada's Rio victory came at a perfect time - not only for the smiling Japanese, his Camel Honda team and Bridgestone tyres - but also for MotoGP in general.

It's always great to witness the pleasure a first grand prix victory brings to a rider and Rio was no exception. Tamada's first step onto the top of the MotoGP podium was made even more special when he dedicated that first win to his great friend, the late Daijiro Kato, who would have been celebrating his 28th birthday on the day of the race.

How Kato would have both enjoyed and admired the victory of his friend as he gave the Camel Honda team their first win of the season and Bridgestone their first ever victory in the premier-class.

The championship also welcomed his win. For the first six races Rossi and Gibernau had produced some superb battles with the chequered flag going to either of them. The title chase needed another winner and Rio also opened up the final outcome to more than just the dominant duo.

With both Rossi and Gibernau crashing out of the proceedings, Tamada's team-mate Max Biaggi came right back into the reckoning. Without doubt the Italian wanted to win the race, but those 20 points for second place still put him within 13 points of Rossi and Gibernau who still share the championship lead.

But where does Tamada go from here. It's similar to a football striker scoring his first goal for his country, the tennis player winning his first grand slam tournament and the cricketer securing his first century in a test match. Once that locked door has at last been opened, the pressure is off and the victories start to flow. However it can go the other way...

There is a long list of riders who have never gone beyond that first victory in the premier-class of racing. Circumstances such as injuries have usually prevented them going on to reap the harvest. That certainly is the case with the likes of Australian Kevin Magee and Spaniard Alberto Puig after their respective 500cc grand prix victories in the 1988 and 1995 Spanish Grands Prix. Also special circumstances or a unique circuit can pick out the single grand prix winners.

New Zealander Dennis Ireland took full advantage of a strike by the top riders who refused to ride on the re-surfaced Spa Francorchamps circuit, to win the 1979 Belgium Grand Prix. Swiss rider Michel Frutchi did the same at Nogaro in France three years later. The 60.721 kms TT circuit in the Isle of Man was never the favourite of many of the grands prix stars. British Yamaha rider Phil Carpenter not only scored his one and only world championship victory in 1974 but also his only world championship points on the road circuit.

Tamada clearly has no intention of joining that single grand prix victory club and the signs look good for the 27 year old, since his first win came in just his 23rd MotoGP appearance. Others have taken their first premier-class victory even quicker, but usually they've graduated from the lower ranks of grand prix racing.

Tamada's team-mate Biaggi made a sensational start to his 500cc career by winning his first race, the 1998 Japanese Grand Prix, but he'd already won four 250cc world titles and 29 grands prix. The only other rider to win his first premier-class race was the late great Finn Jarno Saarinen in 1973, but only after he'd won the 250cc world title.

Even world champion Rossi took nine grands prix to win his first premier-class race, the 2000 British Grand Prix at Donington Park. Before that he clinched both the 125 and 250cc world titles and won 26 grands prix.

But Tamada came with no GP pedigree, having cut his teeth in Japanese 250cc and Superbike racing before joining Pramac Honda last season. He showed a foretaste of what was to follow with his first MotoGP podium, also at Rio, last October.

Tamada finally finished 11th in the 2003 championship, but had a tough start to the new season with only three finishes in the opening six races. That was until lucky number seven in the Rio sunshine. If you are looking for pointers when Tamada's next victory could come, look no further than the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi on September 19.

Last year Tamada crossed the line in third place only to be controversially disqualified for a braking incident with Gibernau on the last lap of the race. He knows Motegi, the Bridgestone tyres work well there and the Honda bosses, desperately seeking Japan's first premier-class world champion, will be there in force.

But before the Japanese GP, Tamada has four races to double his grand prix winning tally and can take with him another piece of trivia to give him confidence:

American Freddie Spencer won his first grand prix at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium on American Independence Day, July 4 1982 - exactly 22 years before Tamada's maiden victory... Spencer went on to win two 500cc and one 250 world title and 27 grands prix for Honda. That would certainly suit Tamada and the HRC bosses.

 

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