Tamada: Six races to stay in MotoGP?
It's probably no exaggeration to say that Makoto Tamada has six races in which to save his MotoGP career - starting at next weekend's Czech Republic Grand Prix at Brno.
Tamada has failed to produce the kind of form that saw him win two races, and claim three pole positions, on Bridgestone tyres since his switch to Michelins for 2005 onwards.
Indeed, his best finish on Michelins is a solitary third in last year's Japanese Grand Prix and the Konica Minolta Honda rider has only managed a high of sixth so far this season. Tamada was running a close third in the early stages of the 2006 German Grand Prix, marking by far his best performance of the season, but he was then torpedoed by Kenny Roberts.
With rumours of fewer Honda seats in the new-for-2007 800cc era - plus pressure from the likes of Honda's 250cc frontrunners Andrea Dovizioso and Yuki Takahashi, not to mention BSB title leader Ryuichi Kiyonari - Tamada now has six races in eleven weeks to reverse his precarious position, as rumours of a WSBK switch gather momentum.
"This year we could admire (Tamada) on only one occasion; not too much," said team director Gianluca Montiron, referring to the German race. "Now it's time to demonstrate that that episode was not an isolated incident. I believe in our rider's potential and in his recuperative powers for the last phase of the season. Makoto likes the Czech track because is a demanding circuit, with a lay out similar to Mugello; there are all the elements to have a good performance."
During the summer break, Tamada and Kiyonari finished fifth in the Suzuka 8 Hours and the #6 hopes that the time off since has helped heal his injured knee - a legacy of the Sachsenring fall.
"During the past few weeks I've tried to relax, even if I had to fight the pain in my left knee which I've had since July 16th. The pain also influenced my performance in the Suzuka 8 hours," said Makoto. "After the summer break, I hope I'll reach the necessary physical condition to ride a good race. I love the Brno track design and hope to ride aggressively from the start of the weekend."