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Author: Camel Media Services Press Release
Posted on: Thursday, Sep 15 2005

World Champion Valentino Rossi suffering three successive defeats at the same circuit by the same MotoGP team. Next you will be telling us you saw a Yeti running out of the woods that overlook the Motegi circuit in Japan and that Norway won the Eurovision Song Contest.

I did make up the Yeti and Norway stories but Rossi's demise for the last three years, thanks to the considerable efforts of one team, is absolutely true. The stage of this most unlikely trilogy is situated high in the hills, some 100 kilometres north of Tokyo in Japan at the Motegi race track that was only built just eight years ago.

For the last three years as Rossi has steamrollered the opposition into submission, one team has stood up to the Italian at the home of their Constructer. Team Honda Pons have brought a temporary but certainly refreshing halt, to Rossi amazing assault by winning the last three MotoGP Grands Prix at the 4.801km circuit that was built and is owned by Honda. Alex Barros, Max Biaggi and Makoto Tamada have all stood on the top step of the Motegi victory podium proudly listening to their country's national anthem while one man has stood alongside each time.

Team Principle Sito Pons knows all about winning both from the saddle and from the pit wall, but even the articulate Spaniard finds it hard to actually pin point the reasons for his team's domination of Motegi for the last three years - not that he's complaining.

"I think the fact that Motegi is the home of our Constructer Honda must have given us wings," said a smiling Pons, as he checked the considerable achievements of his team in Japan for the last three years. "It's difficult to explain just why we have been so successful in Motegi. Of course we always try to do our very best in Japan which is such an important race for Honda and our sponsors but we also put in the same effort and dedication at all the other MotoGP venues."

That first win for the team three years ago was probably the most dramatic in a season of transition between 500cc two-strokes and 990cc four-strokes. Throughout a very tough season, Barros and Loris Capirossi had battled gallantly against the odds on the ageing two-strokes against the mighty new 990cc new boys on the block, until round 13 of the title chase at Motegi. The Honda Pons team were given one of the new all conquering RCV 211 four-strokes for the very first time. One bike and two riders, it was an agonising decision by the team
who would ride the new machine. After much deliberation it went to Brazilian Barros. The performance by both riders, one in joy and the other in disappointment, in the 24 lap race not only was testimony to their skill and commitment but also to the man management skill of the Team Principle.

From the very first practice session on Friday morning, Barros bonded with the RCV Honda more like an old friend rather than a new acquaintance. He qualified on the second row of the grid and in the race took full advantage of others misfortunes to make it the perfect debut and wondering just what might have happened if he'd ridden the machine earlier in the year. Barros won the race from Rossi with over 1.6 seconds to spare while team-mate Capirossi was stung into frantic action after his rejection. Screaming among the four-strokes, the tough little Italian qualified on the front row in third place and repeated the performance in the race to finish on the podium, in front of some of the four-strokes he so wanted to ride.

Max Biaggi joined the team in 2003 together with new title sponsors Camel and the former 250cc World Champion crossed the line in first place for the first time of the season at Motegi. Just under three months earlier, Biaggi won the British Grand Prix although he actually crossed the line in second place but was awarded the victory when Rossi, who'd crossed the line first, was penalised 30 seconds for overtaking under yellow flags. Biaggi's 24 lap victory at Motegi was much more clear-cut.

Biaggi, who'd started from pole, took the lead on the third lap and proceeded to pull away from the opposition headed by Rossi, who was nearly three seconds adrift at the finish. There was plenty of drama behind him with Makoto Tamada being disqualified from third place after a collision with Sete Gibernau on the last lap. One year later Tamada returned to his homeland and gained ample revenge.

Tamada had joined Biaggi at Camel Honda in 2004 and secured his first grand prix victory at Rio in Brazil, riding the Bridgestone shod RCV. He returned home to Motegi absolutely bursting with confidence which was soon clear for all, including the opposition, to see. He dominated qualifying, won the race with nearly three seconds to spare from Rossi and also established a new lap record. Not a bad weekends work for Tamada who'd left Motegi the previous year without even a hint of that trademark smile.

This weekend Rossi only has to finish second in the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi to win his seventh MotoGP title. There is little doubt that the brilliant Italian will retain that World crown but at Motegi ? I'll be looking out for that Yeti and checking on Norway's progress at Eurovision before I make any predictions but don't rule out Camel Honda if you take note of previous form.

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