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Pendulum swings back in Spanish favour

Pendulum swings back in Spanish favour

Pendulum swings back in Spanish favour

The 250 World Championship returns to Spain this weekend with current leader Fonsi Nieto still holding fresh memories of a debut win in his homeland at Jerez six weeks ago. The consistent Madrid rider heads for Catalunya on the back of a great run of results, having finished on the podium at the last four consecutive races. Nieto has also scored points in 19 of the last 20 events, finishing in the top six on sixteen occasions. Third place in the Mugello sunshine a fortnight ago maintained his position at the top of the rider standings, although race winner Marco Melandri is now hot on his tail.

Maximum points for the Italian at his home race moved him from sixth place to second in the championship and within striking distance of his main rival. The pair are separated by 15 points and it now looks as though the title battle is firmly a two horse race. The Aprilia pair have form in their favour, and the history books suggest that they should also have the mechanical edge. The Noale factory have won the quarter-litre race five times at Catalunya, compared to four wins for Honda.

The Japanese manufacturer´s challenge in 2002, meanwhile, appears to be waning, with Emilio Alzamora and Roberto Rolfo picking up just 34 points between them from the last two races. Catalan rider Alzamora lies in sixth place in the championship and will be looking to make up for disappointing start to the season with the support of a partisan crowd of around 85,000. Rolfo´s third place finish last year at Montmeló was his first ever dry weather podium finish in Grand Prix racing, but he has yet to progress to the top step of the podium and is swiftly losing ground on the leaders.

Whilst Honda start to struggle, the reverse has been true for their fellow Japanese manufacturers Yamaha. Sebastian Porto and Shahrol Yuzy built on a solid start to the championship with their best weekend of the year at Mugello. Porto started his 97th Grand Prix from a career best second place on the grid and finished seventh. Yuzy was just two places behind his team-mate, scoring a career best ninth place from 44 Grand Prix starts. The pair carried out extensive testing at this circuit last month and are outsiders to repeat Olivier Jacque´s win from 2000, Yamaha´s only victory here in 250.

Another man with an outside chance is local hero Toni Elias, who was born just a few miles from the Montmeló circuit. The 250 rookie qualified for the front row of the grid for the first time at Mugello, going on to take fourth place in the race, and will hope to be involved in a podium battle which is once again sure to include his fellow Aprilia riders Roberto Locatelli, Franco Battaini and Randy de Puniet.

250cc, 2002, Gran Premi Marlboro de Catalunya

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