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Fonsi Nieto remains in charge of championship chase

Fonsi Nieto remains in charge of championship chase

Fonsi Nieto remains in charge of championship chase

The Gran Premio Cinzano D´Italia was potentially a race full of danger for Fonsi Nieto. Arriving in Italy the Spanish rider had a twenty-four point lead over Marco Melandri, widely accepted as his most direct rival for the championship, but his chances of leaving Tuscany with his comfortable lead in tact seemed scarce. Confronting Nieto were an armada of Italian riders who always raise their game in Mugello, one of the great stages of World Championship racing.

However, the current championship leader wasn´t about to lie down. From fourth on the grid, Fonsi made a mediocre start and initially found himself down in eighth position as the riders settled. Not completely at ease with his bike with a full tank, the Spaniard rode a cautious race as the constant interchanging of places at the head of the field continued apace. It wasn´t until the end of the race that Fonsi finally began to launch his attack. After having gained a place courtesy of Franco Battaini´s untimely departure on to the trackside grass, he got the best from his Aprilia on the final lap. He passed both team-mate Toni Elias and Randy de Puniet to move into third place on what was the quickest lap of the race, a 1´54´´812, some seven tenths of a second better than race winner Marco Melandri was able to produce.

Even though Fonsi conceded nine points to his Italian title rival, he could still be pleased with his performance, a fourth consecutive podium appearance, and also the fifth time in five races this season that he´d claimed a scoring finish, (one of only five riders in the class to have achieved that feat). Furthermore, he became the first Spanish quarter-litre rider to climb the podium steps in Mugello since the circuit first welcomed Grand Prix action. The result is sure to put the 23 year-old in buoyant mood for the next round, another ´home´ Grand Prix in Catalunya.

The display of Fonsi´s cousin Pablo Nieto in the 125 race in Italy provided more joy for the Nieto clan. Pablo came home third, and achieved his maiden 125 podium finish after 53 Grand Prix starts, dating back to 1998. After three seasons with Derbi, this season he rejoined Jorge Martinez Aspar´s outfit, and the change seems to have worked wonders as he currently sits seventh in the championship table.

250cc, 2002, Gran Premio Cinzano d'Italia, Pablo Nieto

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