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Poggiali holding a slender advantage as the chase arrives in Motegi

Poggiali holding a slender advantage as the chase arrives in Motegi

Poggiali holding a slender advantage as the chase arrives in Motegi

After six races in the 250cc World Championship won by six different riders, this weekend's quarter-litre contest is another close call, although the whereabouts of the final resting place for the title does seem to becoming clearer.

Manuel Poggiali tightened his grip on the series leadership with victory at the last round at Rio, opening up 22-point cushion, which represents his largest advantage since the third race of the season at Jerez.

Toni Elias could have cut that gap back to just nine points if he had beaten the former 125cc World Champion in Brazil, but his last lap crash when challenging for the lead means he is now 39-points adrift and fourth in the table behind Roby Rolfo and Randy De Puniet. After effectively losing the 125cc title to Poggiali when he crashed out at this circuit in 2001, Elias needs no extra motivation to repeat his debut win in the class here one year ago and salvage his title bid.

De Puniet currently stands as the rider with the most silverware this season with eight top three results, half of which have arrived in the last four races. The Frenchman is on form and only 28 points behind Poggiali. Rolfo meanwhile continues his impressive run of points scoring performances and has crossed the finish line within the top ten positions in 42 from 44 races since the beginning of 2001.

Ironically, a major part in the destiny of the quarter-litre title could be played by riders who stand no chance of winning it, as a host of promising wildcard riders chase glory at their home race. Honda youngsters Yuki Takahashi, who finished third here with a stunning ride last season, and Hiroshi Aoyama, who took second at Suzuka earlier this season ahead of Takahashi, head the list which also includes Choujun Kameya, the cousin of Japan's most famous ever 250cc wildcard, Daijiro Kato.

250cc, 2003

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