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Latin duel heads north for decisive Dutch TT battle

Latin duel heads north for decisive Dutch TT battle

Latin duel heads north for decisive Dutch TT battle

The bitter Latin duel which is taking place for the quarter-litre Grand Prix crown heads to the north of Europe this weekend, with Italian Marco Melandri and Spaniard Fonsi Nieto locked in an intense two-way battle for honours at the top of the rider standings. Melandri has been spectacularly inconsistent in his 250 career so far, but consecutive wins at Mugello and Catalunya have brought him within six points of championship leader Nieto and memories of his historic victory here in the 1998 125cc race at just 15 years of age could propel him to a significant hat-trick.

However, Melandri is only too aware that he will have to maintain this level of performance if he is to challenge the unerringly consistent Nieto. The Madrid racer, who like Melandri rides an Aprilia, has been on the podium at the last five Grands Prix, including two victories, and has finished in the top six in seventeen of the last 21 races. His record at Assen, though, is not so impressive. He has failed to score points at the Dutch circuit for the last three consecutive seasons and will surely have to improve on that statistic if he is to maintain his title advantage this weekend.

Roberto Rolfo hung on to third place in the championship after finishing second at the last race in Barcelona. The Italian is finally starting to show glimpses of the sort of form expected of him since his switch from a privateer Aprilia at the start of the season and is not out of the title reckoning just yet. The Fortuna Honda Gresini rider lies just fifteen points behind Melandri with ten races remaining and heads to Assen hopeful of a debut win with his new team.

250cc, 2002, Gauloises Dutch TT

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