The Suzuki-riding American, who lost to Michael Doohan in the previous round in Malaysia, said the arm injury he sustained before the Australian Grand Prix, the opening race of the world championship on 27 March, was no longer giving him any trouble. 'I only wish I had that excuse in Malaysia,' Schwantz said.
Schwantz clocked 45min 49.996sec, ahead of Australia's Doohan, who finished second on a Honda in 45:53.470.
Japan's top rider, Shinichi Itoh, also riding a Honda, came in third in 45:57.985 while his compatriot, Norifumi Abe, crashed on the 19th lap. Abe, a wild-card, battled with the top riders for most of the race for second position. Doohan, whose second place puts him in the lead of the world championship standings with 61 points, lauded Abe's spectacular run. 'He is a really brave 18-year-old. I don't think I was as brave as him at that age,' Doohan said.
Luca Cadalora, the Italian who began the race in pole position, was overtaken by Abe on the ninth lap. Cadalora wobbled and subsequently fell behind to finish fourth. 'Our problem was that conditions were very different from practice, and that caused us trouble with front tyre choice,' Cadalora said.
JAPANESE GRAND PRIX (Suzuka) 500cc (123.144km, 21 laps): 1 K Schwantz (US) Suzuki 45min 49.996sec; 2 M Doohan (Aus) Honda 45:53.470; 3 S Itoh (Japan) Honda 45:57.985; 4 L Cadalora (It) Yamaha 46:18.012; 5 A Barros (Bra) Suzuki 46:26.536; 6 T Honma (Japan) Yamaha 46:27.321; 7 A Criville (Sp) Honda 46:31.943; 8 A Puig (Sp) Honda 46:44.761; 9 J Kocinski (US) Cagiva 46:49.376; 10 D Chandler (US) Cagiva 47:01.702. Fastest lap: Schwantz 2:09.439. World championship standings: 1 Doohan 61pts; 2 Kocinski 52; 3 Schwantz 48; 4 Cadalora 46; 5 Itoh 43; 6= Puig, Barros 28; 8 Criville 27; 9 Chandler 20; 10 J Reynolds (GB) 14.
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