Makoto Tamada finally reached the light at the end of a long dark tunnel today at Motegi, as the defending Japanese GP race winner set the pace in this morning's final free practice session - then qualified a season's best fourth in the afternoon.

Boosted by today's pace, the Konica Minolta Honda team is now targeting their first podium of a difficult 2005 season in Sunday's race.

"Makoto is back at the top end of the standings. This is surely positive for his and the team's morale," said team director Luca Montiron. "I am satisfied because the race pace is good and tomorrow we will aim to fight for the podium. There will be many contenders at the front and we hope to bring home an important result, especially after all that Makoto has suffered this season."

"The bike has improved further today and the race tyres gave me much more confidence," added Tamada. "On the other hand, the qualifying tyres used on my fastest lap gave me a strange sensation in the last turns, but I can't complain given how today's session has ended. My race pace is more than satisfying and I'm confident for tomorrow."

Tamada, who won last year's race with Bridgestone tyres, was the second fastest Michelin rider this afternoon - the #6 lapping 0.176secs slower than third fastest man Marco Melandri.



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