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MotoGP departs Europe and heads south for the Cinzano Rio Grand Prix

MotoGP departs Europe and heads south for the Cinzano Rio Grand Prix

MotoGP departs Europe and heads south for the Cinzano Rio Grand Prix

After a five month festival of speed on European shores the MotoGP World Championship heads south this week for the first of four ‘flyaway' events, the Cinzano Rio Grand Prix in Brazil. Current World Champion Valentino Rossi arrives in the party capital of Rio de Janiero looking to celebrate his sixth victory at the Jacarepagua circuit, having won the MotoGP race there for the last three seasons, adding to 125 and 250cc glory in 1997 and 1999. On Saturday he will aim to make the notoriously slippery and bumpy track the only venue on the MotoGP calendar where he has yet to be beaten after four seasons in the premier-class.

With just 46 points separating the series leader from closest rival Sete Gibernau, Rossi will not be repeating the scenes from last season, when victory secured the MotoGP title with four rounds remaining. However, after clinching his first back-to-back wins in almost a year at Estoril two weeks ago and extending his podium streak to seventeen, the Italian looks certain to lead the charge to the constructors title for Honda, who need only a podium finish to make sure of the crown for the fifteenth time.

Italian factory Ducati, who are reportedly trying to prise Rossi away from Honda for the 2004 season, will be doing their level best to stop him this weekend and last week took riders Loris Capirossi and Troy Bayliss to Mugello for two days of testing. With their regular Desmosedici machines already packed up and on their way to Brazil, the pair used the team's development bikes to evaluate a series of new components, with Bayliss belatedly trying out a new front fork for the first time and enjoying instant results as he lapped two tenths quicker than Rossi's pole time at the Italian circuit last June.

Carlos Checa will be looking to lead the charge for Yamaha on his 120th Grand Prix start after enjoying mixed fortunes at the Brazilian circuit in recent seasons. One year ago he fought back from last place to lead the race, only to crash out just a few laps from the end, whilst in 2001 he was cruelly denied victory on aggregate times after losing out to Rossi on the final corner.

Checa's factory colleague Alex Barros, one of only seven riders to have started more premier-class races than the Spaniard, has finished in the top four for the last four years at his home race and will be desperate to maintain that record after a hugely disappointing season so far. The Brazilian has only finished on the podium once so far this season, at the wet race at Le Mans back in May, and currently lies eighth in the championship.

MotoGP, 2003

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