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Honda Team Asia finishes 6th

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This was the second year that Makoto Tamada was chosen to race for Honda Team Asia.  The team was formed last year in aim to train Asian riders to become competitive in the world class races.  Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman was Tamada’s teammate again this year, with the last minute addition of Moto 2 rider, Yuki Takahashi (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia).

The team’s goal was to finish within 6th, and within 3 laps delay from the race leader.  In addition to that, Tamada was given the task of training Azlan.  Tamada is currently racing full time in the Asia Road Racing Championship with Azlan as his teammate.  Azlan is currently leading the Championship, with Tamada ranked 2nd.

With Tamada racing full time this year, it did not take long for Tamada to set speed.  He would pace in the 2 minute 9 seconds from the first test in June, and his pace would last until race week.  During the practice sessions, he would be able the team to always be in the Top 10, while trying to find a solution for Azlan and Takahashi to keep pace.

In the 1st Timed Practice (Qualification), Tamada marks a 2’09.321 and positions in team in 10th, making it eligible to advance to the Top 10 Trial.

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Unlike the normal Tamada, he seemed to be nervous during the race week, probably from his sense of responsibility that he had to mark the best laps.  In this condition, the 2nd Timed Practice starts.  Although they were in 10th at this point, Tamada predicted that one or two lower standing team will improve in their lap time, and therefore needed to improve his to keep the team in Top 10.

He changed his settings, and went out on the track with used tires, to check if the new settings worked.  He was scheduled to change to qualifying tires after he confirmed that his new settings worked.  The accident would occur in his first lap.  Tamada tried to overtake a slower rider from the outside in Corner 3.  His machine tangled with the slower rider, and lead to a crash.  Tamada slid into the safety barrier and the machine that followed him hit him in his legs.

Tamada was brought to the circuit medical center, where the doctors found his tip of the left middle finger missing, as well as, possible fracture in his collarbone and ankle.  He was sent to a hospital in Suzuka.  Intensive examinations at the hospital followed.  He was diagnosed as the amputation of the left middle finger, fractures of the left clavicle and scapula, as well as the fracture of the left ankle.  Doctors diagnosed him a full recovery in 3 months.  This meant the pull-out from the race for Tamada.

Tamada’s lap time in the 1st Timed Practice did allow the team to advance to the Top 10 Trial.  Without Tamada, it was now up to Takahashi and Azlan to challenge the higher starting grid.  Because of a sudden rain right before the Top 10 Trial started, the session was changed to a 40 minute timed practice, rather than a super-pole lap qualification.  Takahashi would lap a 2’08.507, the team’s best lap of the week, and improve to 8th place in qualifying.

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The initial plan was for the riders to run 3 stints each, however with Tamada out of the race, Takahashi had to go for 5 stints, while Azlan had to run 4 stints, and the increase of burden on the riders were expected.  Takahashi, as the starting rider, dropped a little at start, but brought back his pace soon and finished his first stint in 9th place.  Azlan, while keeping his pace, dropped to 10th place in the next stint, and once again Takahashi went out.  In this stint, Takahashi would improve his position to 7th place.  Azlan made a slight mistake when he overtook a rider during yellow flag, and was penalized a 30 second pit-stop, but the team would maintain the 7th place until the final stint of the race.

The final stint was made by Takahashi.  Jumping up to 6th place during the last pit stop, Takahashi would maintain this position.  With 30 minutes left in the race, a sudden heavy rain hits Suzuka.  The only team in the same lap as Takahashi was #104 TOHO Racing with MORIWAKI, the team Takahashi raced for last year at the Suzuka 8 Hours, running in 7th place.  The track was in full wet condition, and the team ordered Takahashi to pit to change to rain tires.  But Takahashi decided not to, and ran the wet track with slick tires, lapping at one of the fastest riders on the track in this condition.

Takahashi crossed the finish line in 6th place with a total of 211 laps.  This was short of 3 laps from the race leader, and the team achieved their goal.

Tamada had his finger operated at the hospital in Suzuka.  It was not fully amputated.  His flesh from his nail and above was torn off, but his bones were still in tact.  The doctors implanted new flesh around the bones of this finger.  They expect a almost full recovery, and the nails grown back.  Tamada has been transferred to a hospital in Tokyo on July 30th, where he will go under surgery for his clavicle and his ankle.  Although doctors predicted a full recovery without surgery, Tamada decided to have the surgery, in order for him to recover fast enough for the next race.  Surgery is scheduled for this week, and Tamada will start his rehabilitation training, and aim for a fast recovery.

Comment, Makoto Tamada
“I really am sorry for this, and would like to apologize to Azlan and Yuki for the burden I layed on them.  Due to my mistake, I burdened the team and Honda as well.  I would also like to apologize to Fujishima for dragging him into a crash.  I am just relieved to hear that he was uninjured.  I was grateful that Azlan and Yuki came to see me during raceweek to tell him how the team was going.  I am very happy that they finished 6th.  Thank you, Azlan and Yuki!”

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