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Fonsi Nieto cuts back the championship gap

Fonsi Nieto cuts back the championship gap

Fonsi Nieto cuts back the championship gap

Fonsi Nieto´s all or bust attitiude at a rain soaked Estoril on Sunday has given his 250cc World Championship hopes a fresh ray of hope. Nieto and Marco Melandri underlined their superiority in the class in treacherous conditions yesterday and the Spanish rider´s victory cut back his Italian rival´s advantage by five important points.

The two Aprilia riders emergred as the two main contenders early in the season. With the exception of the opening GP, also contested in wet conditions at Suzuka and won by local wildcard rider Osamu Miyazaki, the pair have shared exclusive rights to the top step of the podium. Melandri was the first to taste the winner´s champagne at Welkom, but back to back successes for Nieto at Jerez and Le Mans gave him a 24 point lead in the championship.

Melandri´s reaction was impressive, sweeping the next six victories and taking over the mantle of series leader in comprehensive style. The Italian began his run at his home GP before hauling Nieto back to just six points at Catalunya. Fifth place for the Spaniard at Assen saw him relinquish his advantage and after disappointing results in Great Britain, Germany and the Czech Republic he was suddenly looking at a 37 point deficit.

In the knowledge that he cannot make any more mistakes, Nieto rose again in Portugal with one of the most determined displays of recent times, recovering from a crash to take the chequered flag in first position. He was helped by Matsudo, of course, who crashed out of a clear lead to end a run of 19 consecutive points scoring finishes. The only rider who was equal to that record was Nieto who, like Matsudo before Sunday, has scored in every round since the British GP last season.

250cc, 2002, Grande Premio Marlboro de Portugal, Pablo Nieto

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