The 2003 Rio Grand Prix will be remembered as the event in which Makoto Tamada and Bridgestone tyres joined the MotoGP big time, Tamada taking his customer spec Pramac Honda RCV to a podium finish behind only Valentino Rossi and Sete Gibernau.

The result marked the Japanese tyre company's first podium since entering motorcycling's premier class in 2002 season, and beat Tamada's previous best of fourth at the Italian GP in Mugello.

Starting from ninth place on the grid - and having signalled his intentions by posting the third fastest time in morning warm-up - Tamada got a good start and had passed regular front runners Troy Bayliss, Loris Capirossi and Max Biaggi as early as lap 12 of 24.

In punishingly hot conditions, the former WSBK race winner - who'd never even seen the Rio circuit before - gave an obvious indication of Bridgestone's growing threat to Michelin's class dominance by posting his final three laps at a faster pace than both Rossi and Gibernau.

"I had a good start for a change," said Tamada, "and made good progress and passed both Loris Capirossi and Max Biaggi which made me smile under my helmet. The level of our tyres has increased tremendously, but we have to keep our heads down and continue to work hard.

"Now, I can't wait to ride in the next GP at Motegi - it is one of my favourite tracks, and my goal is clear - I want to win!" he beamed.

"What a fantastic day for us!" echoed Hiroshi Yamada, Bridgestone's motorcycle racing manager. "To be able to beat Loris Capirossi and Max Biaggi not only proved Tamada's potential, but shows that our intense development work is now paying off. We have reached our targets this year and now hope for another strong result at our home Grand Prix in Motegi!"

 

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