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Seven points in it with one round to go

Seven points in it with one round to go

Seven points in it with one round to go

After a disastrous wet race for Toni Elias in Phillip Island there will be no local concern but plenty of interest in the outcome of a tight battle for the 250cc World Championship at Valencia this weekend. Manuel Poggiali arrives at the final round of the season with a seven-point advantage over Roby Rolfo, having led the championship since the first round at Suzuka, but he is now coming under intense late pressure from the in-form Italian.

Rolfo has never led the championship throughout his seven-year career but victory in the last round in Australia, his second of the season, has left him within striking distance of Poggiali and has opened up the opportunity to snatch the title at the last possible moment. For Poggiali it could be an excruciating way to finish a remarkable debut season in the quarter-litre class and, as autumn dawns on European shores, he will be hoping the rainy forecasts for the weekend are disproved on Sunday.

Rolfo stormed to a clear victory over Ant West in the rain at Phillip Island, with Poggiali tentatively negotiating his way safely to ninth place, and he could be forgiven for performing a rain dance on Saturday night after only taking one dry victory all season, at Sachsenring in round nine. A similar result on Sunday would make him the first rider to win the title in the final round without having led the series all season since Kel Carruthers snatched glory from Kent Andersson in 1969.

However, Poggiali will be desperate not to repeat the disappointment of one season ago when he relinquished the 125cc title to Arnaud Vincent at this very track. Should the San Marino youngster win the title he will become the first rider to do so at the first attempt since Tetsuya Harada in 1993 and the third youngest ever 250cc World Champion behind current holder Marco Melandri and the most famous graduate of the smaller classes, Valentino Rossi.

Meanwhile, Toni Elias lies twenty points behind Rolfo and looks sure to finish third in the championship whilst Randy De Puniet and Fonsi Nieto are currently tied on points in the battle for fourth.

250cc, 2003, Gran Premio Marlboro de la Comunitat Valenciana

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