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Rossi edges closer to title as Biaggi falls again

Rossi edges closer to title as Biaggi falls again

Valentino Rossi today took another vital step to the 500cc World Championship title with a hard earned victory in the Grande Premio Marlboro de Portugal as Max Biaggi crashed before remounting to finish fifth at Estoril. The race got off to a hectic start with a first corner melee which saw Ukawa, Barros and Abe all crash out whilst other riders, including Criville and Gibernau, who both later had to retire, were forced to cross the gravel. The Italian pair escaped the chaos along with compatriot Loris Capirossi and Biaggi led the way for the opening two laps. Rossi then forced his way to the front as Biaggi dropped back, Capirossi the only rider able to stay with the race leader but unable to pass him despite breaking the circuit lap record, hanging on to take his seventh victory of the season.

´This victory is very important for the Championship with Max crashing today,´ said Rossi afterwards. ´Loris was the main rival today though, he stayed with me all the way and was never more than a second behind me. He made it very hard for me but I lapped consistently under 1´42 and made no mistakes.´

Biaggi´s crash came on the 22nd lap with the Yamaha rider comfortably positioned in third. His fall came as a welcome surprise to McCoy, lapping alone in fourth in a sparse field, who gladly picked up his second podium of the year. Biaggi´s team-mate Checa rolled home in fourth spot whilst World Champion Roberts came out on top in a battle with Vd Goorbergh to wrap up sixth and equal his best results of the season at Le Mans and Assen. Haslam and Haga both crashed out in the closing stages of the race to leave Stigefelt, Clarke and Veneman to pick up unexpected point scoring finishes.

Daijiro Katoh edged closer to the 250cc title this afternoon with a comfortable win which extends his lead to 44 points. The Honda rider conceded the holeshot to Marco Melandri, as Tetsuya Harada also got a good start from pole, leaving him in third position. However, Katoh soon passed the Aprilia pair, breaking the circuit record on the way, before setting new records no fewer than four times as he mounted an unsurpassable lead to finish the race over 16 seconds ahead of Melandri in second. Harada, who was left behind as Melandri stayed with Katoh for the early part of his mid-race burst, was a further ten seconds behind as he took his third consecutive podium position. Poensgen completed her first race with her new team in a creditable twentieth, as Alzamora, De Puniet, Guintoli, Sekiguchi, Lanzi, Hoffman and Barros all crashed out.

Manuel Poggiali closed Toni Elias´ Championship advantage down to thirteen points in the 125 race with a last gasp victory over Youichi Ui by just 0.011 seconds. The San Marino rider stalked his Japanese adversary for the last eight laps, saving his dive for victory for the final corner. Meanwhile Elias was able to minimise the damage with third place, his sixth consecutive podium finish, after a heart stopping last lap battle with Sanna, the Spaniard dicing bravely with the Italian despite running on spent tyres.

500cc, 2001, Valentino Rossi

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