As light drizzle began to fall, the teams prepared the riders' second machines in case they needed to come in and change to wet tyres. However, despite a precarious final three laps and a huge rear slide on the last of them, Barros held his nerve to clinch his first win in over two years.
"I'm really happy because I had been quickest in every session this weekend but this was the only one that really counted," smiled Barros, who last tasted podium champagne at Valencia at the end of the 2002 season. "Sete got away well and I didn't get a good start, but once I was up to second place I just tried to put pressure on him. In the end he crashed and it was a hard race mentally from that point on to keep my focus and stay on the bike."
Valentino Rossi and Max Biaggi did their best to cut down the gap to Barros in the closing stages but wisely decided not to take any risks as they sealed podium finishes. Second place for Rossi extended his advantage at the top of the overall standings to seven points, with Barros now moving up to second in the championship, whilst third place for Biaggi represented a welcome first podium of the season for the factory HRC team.
Marco Melandri continued his excellent start to the season, following up third place in the opening round at Jerez with fourth place today after an entertaining battle throughout the race with Colin Edwards. With the American crashing five laps from the end, Carlos Checa took advantage to clinch fifth place on the Ducati after starting from the front row whilst Edwards returned to the track to bring his Yamaha home in sixth.
Nicky Hayden recovered from a bad start to take seventh after crashes for both John Hopkins and Troy Bayliss in that position, with Shinya Nakano and Loris Capirossi also making the top ten. Bayliss recovered to take twelfth behind Ruben Xaus, with Kenny Roberts, Roberto Rolfo, Toni Elias and James Ellison completing the points.
Casey Stoner took victory in a thrilling 250cc race after an audacious last lap pass on Randy de Puniet. In a packed front group which also featured Andrea Dovizioso, Dani Pedrosa and Alex de Angelis, Stoner made his move around the outside of De Puniet as the Frenchman blocked the inside line in the famous 'Parabolica Interior' corner, before holding on to take his first win in the class. Dovizioso then mugged De Puniet in the chicane to snatch second place, with Pedrosa happy to take fourth ahead of De Angelis. Sebastián Porto had made an electric start to the race but was swallowed up by the pack in the second half as he seemed to suffer a technical problem, eventually crossing the line in ninth place.
Mika Kallio became the first Finnish rider in 30 years to take a Grand Prix victory with his debut win in the 125cc class. Kallio held off a late attack from Spaniard Hector Faubel by just 0.008 seconds after the pair had dominated the race. Swiss rider Thomas Luthi completed the podium.
PODIUM FOR BIAGGI, POINTS FOR HAYDEN
In difficult conditions Max Biaggi finished the Portuguese GP today with a valiant podium third place while his team-mate Nicky Hayden bagged some valuable championship points by finishing the 28-lap race in seventh place.
Biaggi, determined to put Jerez behind him, looked a different rider throughout the weekend as he and his team have began to get the best from the factory RC211V. The 33-year-old, fourth fastest in the morning's warm-up, made a fantastic start from the third row of the grid and was placed second behind Sete Gibernau (Honda) at the end of the first lap. The four-time world champion rode smoothly using his medium compound Michelin tyres in the treacherous conditions where a full-on downpour was never far away. Twelve laps from the end of the race, Gibernau slipped from his Honda elevating Alex Barros (Honda) Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) and Biaggi to first, second and third positions respectively. This is how the trio finished giving Biaggi, in his 199th GP, his second podium ever at the 4.18km track 30 minutes from the Portuguese capital, Lisbon.
Hayden, in only his second race at the twisty circuit made a good start from the third row of the grid but got boxed in at Turn 1 and completed the first lap in 10th place. The 23-year-old then picked off Troy Bayliss (Honda) and Carlos Checa (Ducati) in the early laps before slipping back as be battled to adapt to the conditions. His placing rose as Gibernau, John Hopkins (Suzuki) and Bayliss dropped out. He rode a lonely last part of the race finishing 13 seconds behind compatriot Colin Edwards (Yamaha) and over two seconds ahead of Kawasaki mounted Shinya Nakano.
Makoto Tanaka, Repsol Honda Team Manager
"In very difficult race conditions today we are very happy for Max. He rode a great race with his head. After the really hard weekend at Jerez this is a good tribute to his mental strength. Nicky didn't have the perfect set-up for the conditions but in the end I am happy that he took some valuable points after the disappointment of last weekend. A good team effort that we can build on in China."
Position: 3rd - Best lap: 1m38.848s
Front: 16.5" slick Michelin
Rear: 16.5" slick Michelin
"Someone has certainly said that today Max Biaggi is there. Let me tell you: Max Biaggi has always been there. But today we also had a good bike. Even if we can do much, much better. HRC's potential is far higher than that. Unfortunately I had to race with the second bike because bike No.1, the machine I had the better feeling with, had a technical problem. Definitely, today's third place leaves us satisfied. I'm happy for me and especially for my team: finally I saw them smiling and I thank them all. This podium was really needed to recharge our batteries on the way to China's GP. Our job is not done yet, but we are on the right way: the answer I was looking for is in the electronics."
Position: 7th - Best lap: 1m39.492s
Front: 16.5" slick Michelin
Rear: 16.5" slick Michelin
"I'm not very happy about the race at all or the way the whole weekend went really. We didn't seem to click all weekend and I never felt 100% comfortable on the bike. I got good drive at the start but lost places on the first turn. During the first few laps, when the tyres and the track was good, I was making progress. Then things just seemed to go off and I went backwards. It's difficult to describe how wet the track was in parts. I just wanted to hang on, get some experience and get some points. There are a lotta' races left and we've gotta' lot of racing left to do."
CHECA TOP FIVE ON CHANGEABLE ESTORIL TRACK
Ducati Marlboro Team riders Carlos Checa and Loris Capirossi each scored top ten finishes after an eventful 28-lap Portuguese Grand Prix at Estoril, with Checa an eventual fifth after a difficult opening few laps. Starting from the front row, he dropped down the order until his rear tyre started to work on the cool track conditions and despite wet sections on the track for long periods, he progressed to the top five.
With 20 laps remaining the white flag, signifying rain on the track surface and allowing riders to come in and change to machines with a pre-arranged wet set-up, was shown. All riders nonetheless persevered, with Checa making up ground in the tricky conditions and Capirossi battling against the pain of his ankle injury.
Ducati MotoGP Project Manager Livio Suppo stated:
"So finally we saw how the new flag-to-flag rules were in a race. That was a typical situation in which it was difficult to make a decision, as it was tough to see how hard the rain was coming but in the end it all worked out. If they had stopped the race I think it would not have been any different. In terms of the result we are more or less happy. Considering everything Carlos had a good fight and he took fifth place from really nothing. Loris, we have to remember, is still injured. So both riders finished with points, both in the top ten. Thanks to all our technical partners, especially Shell Advance and Bridgestone."
"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. With more side grip in the later laps my suspension started working better and I regained confidence. Then I was able to establish my pace. Fourth was possible but I braked quite hard passing Melandri and ran wide. The most difficult thing today was to see the flags signalling rain when I was on slicks at 300kmph. That was really scary!"
"Overall I'm happy it's finished because I am not suffering too much pain anymore. Now with a free weekend I will be able to continue my therapy. The track conditions were really unbelievable. Some places it was wet, other places dry and no one stopped in the pits, because it would have been pointless. Luckily only a few riders fell and none fell down in the last three or four laps, when it began raining even more heavily. I tried to be careful and to finish so I brought home some points. The bike has improved and we are working on it very well so I'm confident for next races, when I'll be 100%".
Sources: Dorna Communications, Repsol Honda Team Press Office, Ducati Corse s.r.l.