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Marco Melandri picking up the pace at the halfway stage

Marco Melandri picking up the pace at the halfway stage

Marco Melandri picking up the pace at the halfway stage

Marco Melandri started the 2002 season as a clear favourite for the 250cc World Championship. He got off to an unconvincingly erratic start to the year though, which included crashes in rounds one and three at Suzuka and Jerez sandwiching a dominant victory at Welkom, and doubt regarding his title credentials began to surface. However, the Ravena racer has since been an example of consistent efficiency and is at last showing the form expected from one of Italy´s brightest young MotoGP prospects.

The Aprilia man has not failed to make the podium since Jerez and on Saturday at Assen he picked up his third straight win to make it four for the season. In Holland he controlled the race from start to finish, leaving Toni Elias and Randy de Puniet trailing in his wake after the first lap.

In times of difficulty the Italian has responded in determined fashion and was in typical mood at the end of the race. `I knew I could be out at the front so I just went for it,´ he explained. `Only De Puniet could get close but he made a mistake and that left me with a free run. I could have gone half a second quicker each lap but it wasn´t necessary´.

Melandri´s fifth career victory in 250 moved him to the top of the championship standings ahead of Fonsi Nieto, who could only manage fifth place in Holland. With just an eight point advantage over the Spaniard approaching the halfway stage of the season, Melandri is aware that the long hard fight for the title is far from over: `This is one of my best ever runs of form,´ he concluded. `I am on top of the championship and that is great, but it is not time to think about strategies just yet. My plan is just to stay focused and fight to win every race´.

250cc, 2002, Gauloises Dutch TT, Marco Melandri

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