rising star Makoto Tamada showed his true colours in Rio
during a MotoGP round which was notable more for career bests than
for great racing. The 26 year old rider, who is back in 11th in
the championship, is getting stronger and stronger on his semi-private
Pramac Honda, but until now has never managed better than fourth
place. Expect to see great things from him in the future.
Similarly, Nicky Hayden, the other
Repsol Honda rider, emerged briefly from the shadow of his illustrious
team-mate to go at least some way toward silencing the gainsayers
who persist in pointing out his rather lacklustre year so far on
by far the best bike on the grid. His fifth place, while only equal
to his best so far, was certainly the result of his best ride to
date. The 22 year old American seems to have taken longer to adapt
to the different character of a GP bike than expected, but now seems
to be capable of stringing together some consistently good laps
and can only improve.
But what of the race itself?
started promisingly, with Gibernau going off the line like a rat
up a drainpipe, hotly pursued by Capirossi and Rossi. Troy Bayliss
was hampered by an incredible start that saw him leave a rather
erratic black line from his rear tyre for about 20 smoking yards,
which looked fantastic but relegated him down the field as other
riders with better traction simply powered past.
But by halfway round the first
lap Capirossi had been chewed up and spat out by Rossi, who simply
glued himself to Gibernau's bike and stuck behind him until lap
9 when he made a clean pass and cleared off. To all intents and
purposes, that was the race run. Capirossi was overwhelmed by both
Biaggi and Tamada early in the race, while Tamada and Biaggi themselves
had a bit of a tussle which ended in the Japanese rider's favour
by lap 12.
So with half the race to go there
were no position changes of note, no really close dices and nothing
to get on the edge of the seat about. Rossi rode another textbook
race to put him 51 points clear at the top. There is still a mathematical
chance that Gibernau could lift the title but it would take something
pretty catastrophic to happen to Rossi for that to come about.
Rossi himself has now achieved
a 100% podium record for his last 18 races ( the record being 22,
held by Giacomo Agostini), and has won 6 races this year. He is
a great rider on a fantastic bike and deserves his success. It just
makes the races a little less exciting when there isn't much actual
racing to watch. It now appears that the Italian rider and Honda
have reached an agreement on next year's contracts so expect more
of the same in 2004...
1 Valentino Rossi (Honda)
2 Sete Gibernau (Honda)
3 Makoto Tamada (Honda)
4 Max Biaggi (Honda)
5 Nicky Hayden (Honda)
6 Loris Capirossi (Ducati)
7 Tohru Ukawa (Honda)
8 Shinya Nakano (Yamaha)
9 Carlos Checa (Yamaha)
10 Troy Bayliss (Ducati)