Alex Barros' 2003 season must go down as one of the most injury hampered of all time, with the Brazilian not starting a single race without some form of injury.

Barros moved to Honda after being the 'Sete Gibernau' of 2002 and beating Valentino Rossi, more than once, in a straight fight on equal machinery. With Honda not prepared to offer him a factory ride, he then moved to the Gauloises Yamaha Team and a full factory M1.

After some impressive pre-season testing performances, Barros' season began as it would continue when he fell during practice for the Japanese Grand Prix, sustaining ligament damage to his knee, but still taking part in the race.

Further injuries to his back, neck, shoulder and wrist followed, but he would only miss the British Grand Prix after being taken out by Yukio Kagayama in the morning warm-up. Then, at the Valencia season finale - in what could be his final appearance for Yamaha before returning to Honda - Barros broke a rib in practice, but once again shrugged off the pain to finish a courageous sixth.

"It was a really difficult race for me. My result wasn't too bad but I really suffered - I knew it was going to be tough but I didn't think my rib was going to hurt quite so much," he winced afterwards. "After about 15 laps I could barely ride any more, but Bayliss was trying to come back and so I did what I had to do to hold him off. I started talking to myself to help me keep up my concentration.

"Right from the start of the season I have been injured one way or another and now I am going back to Brazil to have an operation on my shoulder and get myself back in shape," he added. "It will be nice to be home but it won't be a holiday. I will be working very hard with my physiotherapist to get ready for the 2004 season."

"It was particularly hard for Alex towards the end and he was obviously in a great deal of pain when he finally came back into the box. I would like to congratulate him for his courage and determination," said Gilles Bigot, Barros's Race Engineer.

"Alex rode an excellent race and pushed himself through the pain barrier to make it all the way to the finish," praised team manager Herve Poncharal. "I would like to thank him for his determination. Many riders would have thrown in the towel long before the final flag."

Olivier Jacque retired on the 19th lap after running off track.



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