Alex Barros, now firmly ensconced as a Yamaha rider for 2003, is touted among the favourites for the world title in 2003. In an exclusive for Crash Brazil, the Brazilian talks about his chance to run with a factory team, his hopes for the coming year and the absence of successors in Brazilian national bike racing....
Tell us about your career before you made it to MotoGP...
Well, I made my debut in motorcycling in 1978, and conquered four national titles in seven years. Then, in 1986, I graduated to the world 80cc championship, staying for two years before moving on to the 450cc category in 1989.
In 1990, I entered MotoGP with Cagiva, where I stayed for three years, before moving to Suzuki, where I won my first race, and then, in 1995, to Honda. Now I have moved on again for 2003, and will be with Yamaha.
How was that first victory - in the GP of Jarama of 1993?
It was difficult - the first time always is. I was very excited, especially as, in the two previous races, I had led only to stop near the end. In this race, I was praying that nothing would happen, nothing would go wrong. In the end, the opposite thing happened - the leaders retired and I kept on going.
What do you expect from 2003 now that you are riding for Yamaha?
Last season was bad for me because the regulations changed and there were two categories running alongside each other - just as if F1 and F3000 were running together in the top championship for cars. I hope to find that things will be more more equal this year, with new marques coming into the category. I hope that the difference [between us] and the Honda will not be so hard and that, for me, the championship will be more more competitive.
What were the advantages of signing with Yamaha as opposed to either Honda or Kawasaki?
The negotiations happened before the GP of Rio - and were not something that I expected to take place. Although at that time, my salary was likely to be less [than at Pons], I was interested to know that I would be the number one rider and have my 'own' bike - something that would not happen at Honda. I did not necessarily want to leave Honda, but I wanted more than a basic bike [when the likes of Valentino Rossi had development versions].
Nobody knows the main differences between the Honda and the Yamaha. The frame, as always, is better, but the problem is in the transmission of the power from the engine to the wheels. Beyond that, the motorbike is a little light at front, although already we are concentrating on that problem.
It is to first time that I have a chance to be world champion. The Yamaha is already at the same level as the Honda, and the bike is being built to my demands - exactly as I want it. The engine, chassis, everything, is exclusive. With that, it is a lot easier to work with the engineers.
Do you believe that the Yamaha will have equality with Honda?
The two factories have the same technical structure. Yamaha has a lot of people. At Honda Pons, there were only 28 people for the two riders while, at Yamaha, there are already new engineers at each test. The two teams are very different, but that is just a question of adapting.