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Azuma hangs on as challengers fall away in brilliant 125 race

Azuma hangs on as challengers fall away in brilliant 125 race

Masao Azuma emerged victorious from a thrilling 125 race as the rest of his challengers quite literally fell away. Toni Elías grabbed the holeshot from 6th place on the grid but Youichi Ui was ahead by the second corner and looked like he might run away with the race. Stefano Perugini also had a fantastic start, hanging on to his fourth place on the grid as he joined Ui, Poggiali and Azuma, who rocketed into the leading group from 9th on the grid as Elías dropped back through the field.

The front four broke away from the main pack, where Lucio Cecchinello was struggling after a terrible start on the Aprilia. Perugini fought valiantly on the Italjet machine, mixing it with the cream of the class as the lead changed hands almost with every corner. The podium looked like a complete lottery, with Poggiali, Perugini, Ui and Azuma all battling for supremacy.

The turning point of the race came on lap 20, when Youichi Ui lost control of the Derbi and skidded into the gravel. Poggiali and Azuma broke away from Perugini as Lucio Cecchinello continued a charge from the middle of the field, overtaking Gino Borsoi and setting after the Italjet. The Italian pair both overtook their compatriot, whose tyres were completely destroyed forcing him to slip all the way back to 12th.

Azuma overtook Poggiali with one lap to go, and the Gilera rider gave his all to try and stay with the Japanese man. His efforts came a cropper though as he turned a fraction too early into a medium right hand corner and his front wheel clipped the rumble strip, high-siding him into the gravel. Azuma cruised home to cross the line victorious for the second time this season and overtake Ui at the top of the championship.

Cecchinello could hardly believe his luck, crossing the line in second place after his dreadful start, as Borsoi took the final podium position. Nobby Ueda finished a solid fourth, as Angel Nieto Jr. took a fantastic 5th spot. One of the biggest surprises of the race was young Angel Rodriguez, who finished a Grand Prix for the first time this season in a magnificent 6th spot. The 15 year old Spaniard had only managed 4 laps in Japan and 16 in South Africa, but he delighted his home crowd today.

125cc, 2001, Gran Premio Marlboro de España, RAC

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