Honda's recent announcement that they're now pushing out over 240 horsepower from their RC211V, in response to the challenge of series newcomers Ducati, tipped the top speed balance back in HRC's favour during the Rio Grand Prix.

The Jacarepagua circuit features a massive - 1000m long - back straight, giving plenty of opportunity for team's to show off their top end grunt - and it was Honda riders who filled the top two positions by the end of the three days.

Leading the way, unsurprisingly, was factory Repsol rider Valentino Rossi, who hit 320.2km/h during first qualifying on Thursday - but his nearest rival, just 0.4km/h slower, was Pramac Honda's Makoto Tamada, riding a customer spec 2002 machine.
Tamada's excellent top speed is perhaps explained by the long left hand turn leading onto the back straight - his Bridgestone's gave incredible grip all weekend, thus allowing him better drive onto the straight than the largely Michelin mounted opposition... unless he's got some new engine parts from Honda. However, with Rossi's team-mate Nicky Hayden down in ninth on top speed, corner exit would seem a significant factor.

At the Italian Grand Prix, held at Mugello in June, Ducati riders Loris Capirossi and Troy Bayliss dominated the speed charts - the Italian setting a new all-time record with 332.4km/h during the race.

Then, top Honda was Max Biaggi in fifth (behind both Ducatis, Haga's Aprilia and Melandri's Yamaha), the Roman some 8.1km/h behind Capirossi - with Rossi a further 0.7km/h behind.

However, HRC's progress since then seems to have overtaken the gains made by the Bologna manufacturer, with the Ducatis third and fourth at Rio, with Capirossi 2.5km/h from Rossi and Bayliss 2.9km/h.

Interestingly, Yamaha's recent engine modifications also seem to have paid off with Fortuna rider Carlos Checa just 0.6km/h slower than Bayliss, with Nakano and Barros also joining the Spaniard in the top ten.

The top M1, of Melandri, had been 7.6km/h off Capirossi at Mugello - but his team-mate Checa was just 3.5km/h from Rossi's pace during qualifying at Rio.

Further down the order, Aprilia are within striking distance of the slower Yamaha and Hondas in terms of horsepower, while Kawasaki and Suzuki look evenly matched in that they both require 10 more km/h to reach Rossi.

Of note was that David de Gea's Harris WCM was faster than both the Proton V5s of Jeremy McWilliams and Nobuatsu Aoki.

The full top speeds for the Rio Grand Prix can be seen below.

Rider top speeds (km/h) - Rio GP:

1. Valentino Rossi Honda 320.2 Qualifying
2. Makoto Tamada Honda 319.8 Qualifying
3. Loris Capirossi Ducati 317.7 Qualifying
4. Troy Bayliss Ducati 317.3 Qualifying
5. Carlos Checa Yamaha 316.7 Qualifying
6. Max Biaggi Honda 316.5 Qualifying
7. Shinya Nakano Yamaha 315.6 Qualifying
8 Sete Gibernau Honda 315.4 Free practice
9. Nicky Hayden Honda 315.0 Free practice
10. Alex Barros Yamaha 314.5 Qualifying
11. Colin Edwards Aprilia 313.6 Qualifying
12. Ryuichi Kiyonari Honda 313.5 Warm-up
13. Marco Melandri Yamaha 313.4 Warm-up
14. Tohru Ukawa Honda 312.6 Free practice
15. Olivier Jacque Yamaha 312.2 Free practice
16. Noriyuki Haga Aprilia 311.2 Qualifying
17. John Hopkins Suzuki 310.1 Qualifying
18. Andrew Pitt Kawasaki 309.9 Qualifying
19. Garry McCoy Kawasaki 306.3 Qualifying
20. Kenny Roberts Suzuki 303.8 Qualifying
21. David de Gea Harris WCM 301.8 Qualifying
22. Jeremy McWilliams Proton KR 297.7 Qualifying
23. Nobuatsu Aoki Proton KR 296.4 Qualifying
24. Chris Burns Harris WCM 293.4 Qualifying



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