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Strong Mediterranean flavour in important quarter-litre race

Strong Mediterranean flavour in important quarter-litre race

Strong Mediterranean flavour in important quarter-litre race

As the Grand Prix season heads for Europe and the southern-most region in Spain, there will be an extra Mediterranean flavour to the 250cc race at Jerez this weekend. San Marino´s Manuel Poggiali has taken victory in the two opening rounds of the season after only stepping up from the 125cc class in the winter and he currently stands 23 points clear of second placed Italian Franco Battaini. Both riders have bad memories of Jerez having crashed out on the final lap of their respective races last year, with Poggiali dropping his 125 Gilera on the final corner before later being disqualified for a tangle with Alex De Angelis and Battaini running into the gravel when battling for third place with Marco Melandri.

The men out to stop them this weekend will be Spanish team-mates Fonsi Nieto and Toni Elias, who both desperately need a result to cut back the gap to the surprise early championship leader. 2002 championship runner-up Nieto was roared on to his first career victory here by the passionate home crowd last season and has a point to prove after lowly sixth and seventh placed finishes at Suzuka and Welkom in the first two rounds. However, Elias´ chances look to be slim, with the youngster from Barcelona still struggling with a thumb injury sustained in South Africa.

Meanwhile factory Honda riders Roberto Rolfo and Sebastian Porto are hoping Jerez can be a springboard to their championship challenge. The pair are eagerly awaiting significant new engine parts to improve the RS250RW, but hope the machine´s precise handling will come into its own at this demanding track. Rolfo took second position at this circuit last year after leading much of the race from Nieto, and is another man with a point to prove as he continues his gradual adaptation to the Japanese machine.

Randy De Puniet lies fifth in the championship after a solid ride to second in Welkom, but is already 30 points adrift of factory Aprilia colleague Poggiali. Further behind still are Nieto and Elias, who only have 27 points between them, meaning a win for Poggiali this weekend would see the 19 year old take a vice-like grip on the title after just three rounds.

250cc, 2003, Gran Premio Marlboro de España

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