Three-years after leaving Honda Pons to join MotoGP newcomers Ducati, Loris Capirossi returned to haunt the Japanese manufacturer as he beat Repsol Honda's Max Biaggi to claim the Desmosedici's second ever GP win - and its first on Bridgestone tyres - in Sunday's thrilling Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi.

HRC's decision to supply the Pons team with only one RCV four-stroke, which went to Alex Barros, at the tail end of 2002 - combined with a general lack of interest in retaining the Italian - had prompted Capirossi's move to Ducati, and the tough little Italian has always relished defeating his former manufacturer ever since.

"It's fantastic to win here in Japan - Ducati is a small company with a big heart, which makes the taste of this victory on Honda's circuit even sweeter!" Loris grinned after Sunday's emotional triumph. "A win is a win, but here it is even better," echoed Ducati MotoGP project manager Livio Suppo.

The victory was, of course, Capirossi's second with Ducati - he had won his sixth race with the team, at Barcelona, in 2003 - but this one meant much more, coming after a poor 2004 season and at the end of a near perfect race weekend which began with him announcing a new contract with Ducati for 2006, then saw him take pole position and the fastest race lap on the way to a fourth ever premier-class victory.

"We did a fantastic job all weekend long. I gave it a 150 per cent all the way and I rode just about five grand prix distances over the three days just to make sure everything was going to be all right!" revealed Loris.

"We did a lot of tyre testing, but we saw immediately on Friday that Bridgestone's new tyres had enormous potential, so all our focus went to what was going to happen in the race - even in the warm-up this morning, I did a lot of laps to confirm our tyre choice and our set-up."

But with Motegi having seen first turn pile-ups for the past two years, Capirossi was particularly cautious into turn one - costing him two positions; to Honda mounted countrymen Marco Melandri and Max Biaggi, using the rival Michelin tyres.

"After all the problems at the first corner in the last two years I was very careful off the start line," confirmed Capirossi, who would quickly recover and take second position by the end of lap 1. "Then I set after Melandri at the front, he was riding very aggressively and I didn't want to risk too much - but when I finally decided to overtake, I got onto the oil left by Shinya Nakano's Kawasaki and nearly crashed."

The #65 just managed to save his bike and stay on two-wheels, but dropped back to third behind Biaggi. However, a fading Melandri was less lucky two laps later when, having been overtaken by both Biaggi and Capirossi, he was taken out by Valentino Rossi.

That left a straight two-way victory battle, and Capirossi would stalk his compatriot for the next six laps before making a surprise attack, then opening up an unstoppable advantage to secure a clear victory.

"I could see that I was faster than Max in some sections. When I passed him, I put my head down, pushed ahead and pulled 1.5 seconds away from him quite easily. Then I knew it would be my race," said Capirossi.

"It was the Bridgestone guys especially who did a great job for this race. We could see the potential of their new tyres with my second place in Brno, and this is another step up. It's great that they followed my suggestions and that we now have tyres that allow me to ride the bike the way I want to," he added.

Capirossi's win was Bridgestone's first since victory at the same circuit last year with Honda's Makoto Tamada, who finished third on Sunday with Michelin.

Indeed, the only downside to Ducati's Japanese victory is that it is in danger of being labelled a 'Bridgestone win' - "It was very hard to follow Capirossi with his Bridgestones," Biaggi would say afterwards - but Suppo stated that credit should go to Capirossi, Bridgestone and Ducati, in that order.

"It's fantastic for everyone involved in the team," he said. "We must thank Loris first of all, because he rode perfectly the whole weekend, then Bridgestone, because the tyres worked well all weekend, and of course the guys who have been working on the bikes, both here and back in Italy. It's not just the tyre and the rider; it is also the machine."

The results would appear to rule out any major tyre advantage since the next best Bridgestone finisher - Capirossi's team-mate Carlos Checa - was 22-seconds down on his victorious team-mate, while Biaggi's best race lap was just 0.017secs slower than Capirossi's. Indeed, Capirossi was the only Bridgetsone rider in the fastest lap top five.

Michelin, who had won every MotoGP race this season prior to the event, also believed that the gap between the tyre companies was much smaller than it had been one year ago - when Rossi had been the only Michelin rider on the podium.

"Quite clearly the difference between Bridgestone and us at this track was bigger last year than it was this year," confirmed Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's chief of motorcycling competitions. "We improved more than they did and the race was a lot faster than last year, while the gap is smaller. I cannot say I am happy about the result but I cannot say that I am too unhappy.

"(Capirossi) was also the only Bridgestone rider to show a good performance, because all the other ones were 20 seconds behind. Last year this was not the case. Even if they finished in fourth (Checa) and fifth (Hopkins) positions as well, it doesn't mean a lot because of the number of crashes," he added.

 

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