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Shin’ya Nakano profile

By Dan Moakes
December 23 2005

Shin’ya Nakano
nationality • Japanese
born • 10 October 1977
grand prix début • 1998

One of the quiet men of Grand Prix racing, Shin’ya Nakano prefers to let his smooth and effective riding do the talking. A former engineering student, he perhaps doesn’t have the force of personality to gain public notice in the way of some of his peers, and is therefore surely under-rated. But there is no lack of respect for his abilities among the people he races for, and against. An acclaimed 250cc racer, he has made the switch up to both 500cc and 990cc machinery successfully and, after many years of service for Yamaha, he now looks to continue Kawasaki’s drive towards the top end of the leader board

Started riding on a ‘pocket bike’

Eastern Kanto region pocket bike Grand Prix 2 champion

All-Japan Pocket Bike Champion

Made 50cc Minibike racing début

Won three regional Minibike championships

Won a further regional Minibike championship

1994 SP Tadao Racing Team
6th in Kanto region 250cc SP championship; 3rd in Kanto region 125cc SP championship; won Suzuka 4-Hours Endurance race; won Suzuka Sunday Auto-bai 250cc SP race

1995 SP Tadao Racing Team, number 62 Yamaha
12th in Japanese 125cc championship, with Yamaha TZ125 - 2nd at Mine

1996 SP Tadao Racing Team, number 12 Yamaha
6th in Japanese 125cc championship, with Yamaha TZ125 - 2nd at Suzuka and Mine

1997 Yamaha Racing Team, number 56 Yamaha
5th in Japanese 250cc championship, with Yamaha YZR250 - won at Sugo and Mine

1998 Yamaha Racing Team, number 56 Yamaha
Japanese 250cc Champion, with Yamaha YZR250 - seven wins from eight races; 250cc Grand Prix début as wildcard, number 50 bike for BP Yamaha Racing Team - 2nd in Japan, 4th in Australia

1999 Chesterfield Yamaha Tech 3, number 56 Yamaha
Shin’ya proved his abilities in a first full season of 250cc Grands Prix, with regular top five results, including five podium scores. Three of these came from his first four outings, and he was already a winner after round two, his home race at Suzuka. He was on pole twice, set one fastest lap, and 207 points put him right in the middle of the Italy versus Japan battle. Indeed his final total placed him fourth overall, and just two points behind reigning champion Loris Capirossi

2000 Chesterfield Yamaha Tech 3, number 56 Yamaha
The 250cc title was so nearly Nakano’s in 2000, but instead went to team-mate Olivier Jacque, by just seven points and on the very last corner of competition. Along the way, the Japanese rider’s five wins were the most of anybody, and his consistent run of twelve podiums from sixteen bore the mark of a champion. Unfortunately, the race in Estoril was costly, as he was unsighted and crashed over Tohru Ukawa’s fallen Honda at the hairpin. Otherwise, he would surely have beaten Jacque. 272 points, three poles and seven fastest laps were added to his tally

2001 Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3, number 56 Yamaha
For 2001, the entire Tech 3 team moved up to the 500cc class, including riders Nakano and Jacque. Shin’ya was a revelation on the YZR500, taking a first podium in Germany, and easily winning the rookie of the year tag. Starting from the front row in each of his first four attempts, he actually qualified second for his first 500 GP, and repeated this at rounds six and nine. Overall, he was fourth best qualifier, behind only the dominant Italian trio of Biaggi, Capirossi and Rossi. A mid-season hand injury upset Nakano’s momentum briefly, but he was a regular points scorer, and nine times in the top six. Meanwhile, Jacque made rather less of an impact, with 59 points to Nakano’s 155. This score took the 24-year-old to fifth overall, and he also added one fastest lap

2002 Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3, number 56 Yamaha
2002 was the start of the four-stroke 990cc MotoGP era, but for the Tech 3 boys it meant continuing with the two-stroke Yamaha 500. This time Nakano and Jacque were much more closely matched, and it was the Frenchman who sat on pole for the German GP, with Shin’ya beaten into second by just 0.08s. He converted this into fifth at the flag, and later added two sixths when given the new M1 for the last three races. Other results meant 68 points and eleventh overall, but with ‘OJ’ thirteen points and a place better off

2003 Yamaha d’Antín, number 56 Yamaha
In 2003, one of the loyal Tech 3 riders had to make room for new signing Alex Barros, and it was Nakano who was moved aside. His first full season with the YZF-M1 was another consistent one, with 101 points from finishes in all but the last race, where he spoiled the record with a fall. His best results were fifths at Mugello and Barcelona, and his record made him joint second best Yamaha rider, level with injury affected Barros, and behind Carlos Checa. In qualifying, Checa was the only M1 rider to best him overall, with Shin’ya six times in the top six

Shin’ya Nakano - photo by
Shin’ya Nakano in action during 2004 - photo by

2004 Kawasaki Racing Team, number 56 Kawasaki
For a loyal Japanese rider, swapping makes is still fairly unusual, but this happened with Shin’ya as Valentino Rossi arrived at the top of the Yamaha tree. He took on leadership of the Kawasaki project, with the ZX-RR now swapping from Dunlop tyres to the more promising Bridgestones. Nakano qualified in the top six on six occasions, including on the front row with third at Sepang - the first time for Kawasaki since 1981. The tyres let him down with a very big crash in Italy, but encouraging results elsewhere included a podium appearance - he was third at home in Japan, perhaps helped by a first corner pile-up but still ahead of the likes of Barros and Gibernau. Consistent finishing gave him 83 points, and tenth place overall

2005 Kawasaki Racing Team, number 56 Kawasaki
Continuing with Kawasaki, and their improved ‘big-bang’ firing order motor, Nakano was a strong qualifier again, with seven appearances on the second or third rows. There was no podium this time, but he scored more points, starting off with fifth in Spain, and was once more tenth overall with his tally of 98. In Germany, he set some particularly fast times chasing up to the leaders, but had to settle for sixth as his tyres found the going tough. He will look to move further forward as he leads the team into 2006

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