Tue, Jul 06, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Japan's Tamada clinches his first MotoGP victory

REUTERS , RIO DE JANEIRO

Spain's 125cc rider Hector Barbera, right, sprays champagne on a model on the podium after winning the Rio Grand Prix at the Nelson Piquet race track in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Macoto Tamada of Japan, riding a Honda, clinched his first MotoGP victory on Sunday after the two championship front-runners fell off their bikes early in the race.

Champion Valentino Rossi, who had won on his six previous visits to Rio, and Spain's Sete Gibernau both fell on the bumpy track of the Nelson Piquet circuit but remained on top of the standings with 126 points apiece.

Tamada's Camel Honda team mate Max Biaggi of Italy, seen as an arch rival to his compatriot Rossi, finished second and was followed by American Nicky Hayden, also on a Honda. With the three Honda riders on the podium, the factory overtook Yamaha in the constructors' standings.

Italian Loris Capirossi on a Ducati came fourth.

Tamada, who made his debut in motorcycling Grand Prix races only last year, said his Bridgestone tyres adapted well to the heat of the circuit. The weekend in Rio was unusually hot and cloudless for the Brazilian winter.

"A perfect race, with the bike settings and the tyres as good as they could possibly be," said Tamada, who started from the seventh position. His success ended French tyremaker Michelin's remarkable run of 92 premier-class victories.

Biaggi congratulated Tamada, calling him "a true friend." He said his own 20 points for the race "are really worth a lot for the championship ... but now I want to get back on to the top of the podium."

Rossi said: "Our bike set-up wasn't quite right."

Gibernau missed the podium for the first time this year.

In the 125cc, Spaniard Hector Barbera steered his Aprilia to victory from pole position after a final-lap struggle with Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso from Italy and Australian Casey Stoner on a KTM. Stoner finished second.

Despite finishing third, Dovizioso maintained his lead in the championship with 125 points, while Barbera took the second place with 109 points, rising from third spot.

Manuel Poggiali of San Marino finished first in the 250cc class on his Aprilia and was followed by Spaniards Daniel Pedrosa and Toni Elias, both on Hondas.

Randy de Puniet of France, riding an Aprilia, finished a disappointing eighth and lost his lead in the championship to Pedrosa, who finished second on Sunday and has accumulated 130 points against de Puniet's 119.

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