Aprilia and Tetsuya Harada
finally broke the Katoh/Honda stranglehold on the 250cc championship with a dominant win in a wet Italian Grand Prix – which saw two other Aprilia stars crash out and Katoh finish just ninth.
Main news on race morning was that Marcellino Lucchi would be starting the race, from second behind Harada, despite breaking bones in his foot during one of his two crashes yesterday.
As the field made their way around the parade lap, it was clear that the rain, which had delayed the 125cc race, was now no better and it would be a wet race in the true sense of the word.
The red lights went out and Franco Battaini lost control of his Aprilia – spinning out on the grid! Luckily the rest of the field missed him and it was Lucchi who led around the first corner, from McWilliams, Matsudo, Harada and Locatelli – but where was Katoh?
The answer was way, way down the field. The dominant force in 250cc racing this year was down in eighteenth place – eleven seconds behind Lucchi after the first lap, despite appearing to get a reasonable start. Katoh's downward spiral implying a rather risky tyre choice.
Meanwhile, Harada had moved past Matsudo into third and began to look at getting around McWilliams. Harada attempted to pass his fellow Aprilia on the start/finish straight – but McWilliams refused to budge. However Harada moved ahead of the #99 machine later in the lap, and the three predominately black machines began to pull away from Matsudo's turquoise machine in fourth.
Lap 4 and Harada led briefly across the timing beam, before Lucchi out-braked his teammate into the first turn to regain the advantage.
One alp later and fourth placed starter Randy de Puniet
'introduced' his Aprilia to the gravel trap – with Lucchi doing the same seconds later, the Italian veteran losing the front wheel, the lead of his home GP, and having his third big crash of the weekend in the process.
Then McWilliams, who had inherited second, threw his Aprilia down the road with a similar incident – the front washing away and sending the Ulsterman into the gravel.