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Poncharal keen to keep Barros at Yamaha

Poncharal keen to keep Barros at Yamaha

Poncharal keen to keep Barros at Yamaha

Herve Poncharal has expressed his intent to keep Alex Barros at Yamaha despite rumours linking the Brazilian with the Honda ride vacated by Valentino Rossi. Barros, who is currently out of action after an operation to cure a long term problem in his shoulder, has already stated that he would be interested in the move if he can be freed from his contract with Altadis, main sponsors of the Gauloises Yamaha team, which runs until the end of 2004. Team boss Poncharal is keen to link up the veteran's experience with the youthful exuberance of Marco Melandri but admitted that he was uncertain whether the 33 year old would be on board in time for testing in January.

"Alex had the operation on his right shoulder last week," explained Poncharal. "He was injured at Donington and developed tendonitis, which made it very uncomfortable to ride. I have to speak with him properly but the operation was a success and he is now recovering at home in Sao Paulo. He should be fit again in a matter of weeks, although I don't know if he will be back for testing in Malaysia in mid-January."

The Frenchman went on to underline his desire that Barros should stay with the team, although admitted that the matter was already out of his hands. "Unfortunately the decision doesn't lie with me – Alex has a two-year deal with Altadis and the company's intention is that he continues with us. I spoke with representatives from Altadis only yesterday and they reiterated their wish that Alex stays with us.

"We know that Valentino Rossi's move has left a vacant spot at Repsol Honda and we have heard of the interest they have in Alex. This just re-affirms the quality of our rider – it shows his value – but I repeat that, as things stand today, the intention of Altadis is that he fulfils his contract and stays within our team structure for 2004. For us it is an added bonus to have him on board because he is a rider with a lot of talent and experience and, alongside a young rider with great potential such as Marco Melandri, we would have a very solid and strong team."

Poncharal added that he was convinced his team would have full support from Yamaha despite the arrival of Rossi to the factory. "I am confident that Yamaha will stick to their criteria of offering the same bikes to all their riders and that they will all have the same technical resources. However, the arrival of the World Champion is going to have an influence and, without doubt, Rossi's voice will be the one which is given most attention by the factory development department."

MotoGP, 2003, Alex Barros

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