Motorcycling: Barros ends barren sequence as Rossi extends lead

Alex Barros won a rain-affected Portuguese Grand Prix here yesterday with the world champion, Valentino Rossi, finishing second and increasing his championship lead.

Alex Barros won a rain-affected Portuguese Grand Prix here yesterday with the world champion, Valentino Rossi, finishing second and increasing his championship lead.

Barros, the Brazilian riding for Honda, had started from pole and weathered treacherous conditions to claim his first victory since the Valencia Grand Prix in 2002 and the seventh of his career. The Spanish contender Sete Gibernau had led from the start of the 28-lap race despite riding with an injured shoulder, but he lost control of his bike on lap 16 and slid out.

It was a bitter disappointment for a second successive week for the Honda rider after he was pushed into second place by Rossi's Yamaha on the final corner of the Spanish Grand Prix and ended up in a gravel trap. But with Brazilian flags peppering the 26,000-strong crowd, Barros was greeted with loud cheers as he took the chequered flag.

"It started raining and I tried to pressure [Gibernau] a little bit. It was the only way," Barros said. "He braked late and lost the front of the bike. After that I tried to just keep a good pace, to go a little bit slower."

Rossi's Italian compatriot Max Biaggi, who has endured a bad start to the year, finished third after clawing his way back from eighth place on the starting grid on his Honda. The result left Rossi, who is chasing a fifth successive world title, seven points clear at the top of the MotoGP standings on 45 points, followed by Barros on 38, with the Honda rider Marco Melandri on 29. Gibernau is fifth on 20.

"I am very, very happy. These 20 points are important for us and for the championship," said Rossi, who had won at Estoril for the last four years.

Biaggi, who described his qualifying performance in Spain last week as the low point of his career, was delighted to bounce back with a podium finish ahead of another Italian, Melandri.

"We've improved a lot since Spain," said the 33-year-old. "Now I think the team has more experience and the bike will get even better before the next race."

Ducati's Carlos Checa, another injured rider, started third on the grid but was running as low as ninth at one stage before recovering to finish fifth. "When you consider the things we had to carry into this weekend, with my shoulder injury and so on, to finish fifth is a positive result," the Spaniard said.

Sunday's race saw the first use of a new white flag system in MotoGP, which allows riders to change bikes at will if conditions are wet, although no one did.

There were first-time winners in the 250cc and 125cc classes. The Australian Aprilia rider Casey Stoner achieved his maiden 250cc victory, while Mika Kallio became Finland's first grand prix winner in three decades when he won the 125cc race on a KTM.

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