In 19-years of grand prix racing Alex Barros
had not experienced many tougher weeks. The 34-year-old Brazilian veteran sat in the Camel Honda hospitality unit in the Sachsenring paddock on the eve of the German Grand Prix, fulfilling all his media requirements with his usual politeness and patience. His face showed nothing of the last six days he'd endured, before embarking on a his 251 st grand prix appearance the next day.
Six days earlier he'd drawn on all those vast resources of experience and sheer determination, to finish third in the British Grand Prix at Donington Park in truly appalling conditions. He'd led the way after the first day of practice at the Sachsenring in tropical weather but also crashed twice. In qualifying on Saturday afternoon, he'd just established his fastest lap which put him on the front row of the grid for the race, when he fell again going into the first corner.
So just another day in the office for the rider who always wanted to be a grand prix racer ever since watching the European races on television back home in Sao Paulo. He even broke the rules to put himself into those television pictures back home by competing in his first grand prix when he was just 15 years old. It came as a bit of a shock.
"It was the 80cc race at Jarama in Spain in 1986 and I remember it was a very tough race," recalled Barros." I think I qualified in around 22nd place and crashed four times. I told the team afterwards I never thought racing in the world championship would be that hard but it was also a day of great emotion. Carlos Lavado won the 250 and Wayne Gardner the 500, after World Champion Freddie Spencer retired with an arm problem and he never finished on the podium again."
Barros completed a couple of seasons in the 80cc class and just one in the 250s when he was thrown into the deep end, with the chance to join the Italian Cagiva team and grand prix legend Randy Mamola, competing in the blue riband 1990 500cc World Championship.
"It was a great opportunity although I'd been keen to stay in the 250cc class, but Yamaha would not give me an answer about a factory machine and Cagiva were pushing for an answer and so I joined the 500s, where I've been ever since," explained Barros, who has made a record 220 starts in the class, finished in the top ten 166 times, scored world championship points 176 times, finished in the top ten for 12 successive years and has won seven races.
"The Cagiva was not a winning machine and it gave me a great opportunity learn about the 500s . I gained enormous experience with Cagiva for three-years, then joined Suzuki and at last won my first race."
Ironically, that first win came where it had all started seven-years earlier, the dusty Jarama circuit on the outskirts of Madrid.
"It was a very special day although I'd come close on a couple of previous occasions," he recalled." My first podium was the year before in Assen and then in my first year with Suzuki in 1993, I crashed on the last lap at Assen with Kevin Schwantz
and Mick Doohan while leading and also at Jerez the same year. I had to wait until the last race of the year to at last win a grand prix."