It was an unforgettably emotional day for the West Honda Pons team at Motegi, as Alex Barros scored a spectacular victory on his debut with the Honda RCV, after a thrilling duel with World Champion Valentino Rossi which was decided right on the finish line.

Barros' team-mate Loris Capirossi had shot off the line on his two-stroke at the start, but it was Rossi who quickly grabbed the lead in front of the 54,000 crowd, in dry conditions. Barros moved into second and pole setter Daijiro Kato made it a trio of Honda four-strokes at the front by relegating Capirossi to fourth, by the end of the first lap.

On lap five Barros grabbed the lead and a lap later the threatening Kato moved into second place, only to run wide and then retire with mechanical problems, moving Capirossi back to third. For 14 laps Rossi pressured Barros at the front but the experienced Brazilian held firm, knowing the real battle would come in the later laps.

With six laps remaining, Barros let Rossi take his chance at the front but the game of cat and mouse continued with Barros back in front, two laps later. Then the pace started to hot up. Rossi was having both clutch and handling problems and try as he might, he could not catch Barros, who held a 1.6 second advantage at the finish of a tremendous race.

"What a day for me and the team and what a motorcycle to ride!" said Barros, still smiling hours after the finish. "The RC211V is an easy bike to ride - now I've ridden one I realise why they have won so many races. The technical guys in the team have worked exceptionally hard to achieve this result. I had no experience of how the bike would react during the final laps and I was worried that the tyres might let me down.

"For this reason I rode with much care, but when Rossi passed me I decided it was the moment to take risks. I gave 110% on the last lap to win the race and this was reflected in my final lap time which was the fastest lap of the race," explained the MotoGP veteran.

In a fantastic day for the Barcelona- based team Italian Loris Capirossi completed the podium in third place.

Team Manager Sito Pons couldn't have been a happier man: "Alex and Loris were quite simply brilliant and they have once again demonstrated that they are two of the best riders in the Championship. They are clearly the great winners of the day."



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