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Fonsi Nieto leads the Spanish charge in 250

Fonsi Nieto leads the Spanish charge in 250

As Spain´s top riders in the 500 class falter, with just one podium position in the first three races and not one single front row qualification, 250 surprise package Fonsi Nieto is flying the flag for the Iberian peninsular. The 23 year old nephew of 13 time World Champion and Spanish legend Angel Nieto has lifted national titles in his home country no fewer than three times; in the 125 class in 1998 and then in 1999 and 2000 in the 250 series.

This season the amiable youngster has started his third full MotoGP campaign in style, with fifth placed finishes in the last two races and a front row slot for the second consecutive time in Le Mans. His achievements so far this season have bettered anything he managed in the previous two years, and Fonsi is as surprised as anyone else. ´If somebody had told me last year that I would have two fifth placed finishes and two front row qualifications by this stage of the season I would have told them they were crazy. I always knew that I could improve on my performances last year with a better bike, but I wasn´t expecting such a big change.´

Fonsi, short for Alfonso, had an average debut year with the Luis d´Antin 250 team in 1999, slightly improving last year with a best result of sixth place in Portugal. However, the switch to the Valencia Circuit Aspar Team in 2001 has provided a huge boost to a career which is no doubt on the way up. ´The switch was just what I needed, although I definitely learned a lot from Luis d´Antin. Now I´m picking up new things from Aspar and that´s helping me. Of course I am more experienced now, so all these factors contribute.´

With Alex Criville, Carlos Checa and Sete Gibernau struggling to make a lasting mark on the 2001 season in the 500 series, and former 125 World Champion Emilio Alzamora still adapting to his switch to the 250 class, Nieto has become Spain´s new hope for success this season. ´The pressure is on me a little bit now and I know the people at home are starting to expect things from me, but the other guys will soon start to find their form again, I´ve no doubt about that. The Spanish guys in the 500 series are all top class riders and they will be there as soon as they sort out their problems.´

Nieto is not the only young Spaniard causing ripples of appreciation through the paddock, as he himself recognises. ´In the 125 class we have got some excellent young riders and I think they´re doing better than anyone expected. Obviously Toni Elias stands out at the moment but he has a year of experience over the likes of Dani Pedrosa and Joan Olive. Angel Rodriguez is also doing well in a smaller team and the future looks good for all of them.´

So what is the secret to the quality of riders currently rolling off the Spanish production line? ´There is a strong network of support for young riders in Spain. The youth cups that have been established there are bearing fruit now and it´s testament to the hard work put in by people like Alberto Puig and Aspar. Now we need more people like them, we need role models to get involved with the development of young riders and I´m sure we´ll see even more quality kids appearing on the world scene.´

Fonsi´s current aspirations are realistic, although he has no doubt over his future ambitions. ´I want to be World Champion. Every rider does and I´m no different. For the moment though my goal is firstly to get a podium and take it from there. Hopefully I can get two or three more before the season is out but we´ll see. I have qualified well here at Le Mans on a bumpy and dirty track and I know I can go faster tomorrow. I would like finish in the top three and represent Spain on the podium. That is my dream and I will be giving everything to achieve it.´

250cc, 2001, Grand Prix Polini de France, QP1, Pablo Nieto

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