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Aprilia hope to lead Latin charge at Mugello

Aprilia hope to lead Latin charge at Mugello

Aprilia hope to lead Latin charge at Mugello

Italian manufacturer Aprilia contest their home Grand Prix this weekend with high hopes of defending their World Championship lead and propelling one of their Latin challengers to the top of the podium for the fourth consecutive race. The Noale firm have won the 250 race at Mugello five times in the past seven years and have taken pole position for every race here since 1992.

Spanish rider Fonsi Nieto leads the way on 69 points and arrives in Italy on the back of a run of great results. Consistently quick in qualifying, Fonsi has started from the top six places on the grid for twelve successive races and is looking for a hat-trick of wins after following up a debut victory in Jerez with first position in Le Mans two weeks ago.

Marco Melandri recently stated that he believes the title chase is now between himself and Nieto, and he will be hopeful of closing the gap on the leader and improving on fourth place in the rider standings in front of his home crowd. The Italian youngster has finished on the podium four times at Mugello, twice in 125 and last year in 250, but has only finished two races so far this season despite qualifying on the front row on each occasion. He hopes to repeat his only win of the season so far, a commanding ride to top spot in round two at Welkom.

Roberto Rolfo currently lies second in the World Championship and this weekend he returns to the venue of his first ever podium finish in Grand Prix racing. The Italian has come a long way since taking second place behind Tetsuya Harada at Mugello although he has yet to take his debut victory after signing for Honda at the end of last season.

Melandri and Rolfo will not be the only riders vying for home favouritism, with the likes of fellow Italian riders Franco Battaini and Roberto Locatelli looking to continue their excellent starts to the season. French youngster Randy de Puniet and Australian rookie Casey Stoner have also been on form in recent weeks and the battle for podium positions in the quarter-litre class could be the closest yet.

250cc, 2002, Gran Premio Cinzano d'Italia

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