Local hero Alex Barros has his best chance yet of a first home victory at Rio Sunday, when the Brazilian takes on his home GP with a factory Honda RC211V.

"For me, this is the best bike ever," said the man from Sao Paulo. "When I first raced an RCV at Motegi in 2002 I was amazed. I couldn't feel one bad thing about the bike and it was so easy to setup."

But despite his admiration for the RCV, Barros hasn't had the best of starts to the 2004, scoring only one podium finish (at Jerez) from the first six races. However, he's determined to turn his year around on home tarmac.

"For many people the home GP brings a load more pressure but I always really enjoy it," he stated. "Fans at home are very passionate about their motorsport and I get a huge amount of support from the crowd in Brazil.

"I have a very good chance to win this year, my best chance since 2000 when we were all on 500s," added Barros, who scored his best Rio result that year, finishing second, just 0.9 seconds behind Valentino Rossi. "I also had good chances at Mugello, where I had a problem, and at Barcelona (Catalunya) and Assen where I crashed. But I will be doing everything in my powers to win at Rio."

Nevertheless, the Assen accident - where he was thrown from his machine at high speed while battling race leaders Valentino Rossi and Sete Gibernau - has taken its toll.

"I saw my doctors at home on Monday who indicate that, although I am fit to ride, I'm not 100% especially with my left shoulder which is still pretty sore," he revealed.

Meanwhile, the 33-year-old expects this year's Rio GP to be different from years past, simply because it's being held several months earlier than usual.

"The race will be very different this year because the date has changed - this time we're in Brazil's winter," he said. "It won't be cold but it will be cooler. In theory, it's not the rainy season, so it shouldn't be wet, but neither is September the rainy season and it's rained at the last few Rio GPs we've had in September."

But Barros isn't too worried if the heavens do open because Jacarepagua is super grippy in the wet.

"The track gives a lot of grip when it rains," he confirmed. "Two years ago it rained heavily for the race and the lap times were incredibly fast."



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