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Five riders bidding for championship lead in Portugal

Five riders bidding for championship lead in Portugal

Five riders bidding for championship lead in Portugal

The 250cc World Championship is developing into one of the closest and most exciting seasons in history, with just 19 points now separating the top five riders and just six races remaining. After ten rounds Manuel Poggiali is still hanging on to the series lead he has maintained since the opening race but, after five events won by the four riders immediately behind him, the chasing pack has significantly tightened. Poggiali's record at Estoril is mixed, having retired from the 125cc race in 2000 with technical problems only to take victory one year later on his way to the title and then crash out last year after starting from the back of the grid.

Fonsi Nieto has better memories of this track, having celebrated one of his greatest moments there one year ago, crashing in treacherously wet conditions but remounting to beat World Champion-elect Marco Melandri by less than a second. The Spaniard remains in second place and lies just nine points behind Poggiali despite struggling to sixth at the last round in the Czech Republic.

The consistent Roberto Rolfo, the only rider to have scored points in every round so far this season, lies just one point behind Nieto in third place, with the contrastingly unpredictable talent of Randy De Puniet a further five points behind in fourth. De Puniet has gone from strength to strength since recovering from injuries sustained in a crash at Assen, progressing from eighth to third to victory in three races, and will be finally looking to consolidate a serious title challenge with some much-needed consistency over the final six rounds.

After battling to the line for second place with Poggiali at Brno three weeks ago, Toni Elias will be hoping his challenge this weekend will be for first place. The young Spaniard has returned to form after an indifferent spell since back-to-back wins at Jerez and Le Mans and finds himself well within in the championship hunt – four points adrift of De Puniet and the only other rider within striking distance of the series lead in Portugal.

Tags:
250cc, 2003, Grande Premio Marlboro de Portugal

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