First win for Elias at wet Assen
30 June 2001
Toni Elias took a thrilling first ever grand prix victory in the 125cc race at Assen today, the 18 year old rookie surviving the treacherous conditions to lead home Arnauld Vincent by just 0.6secs.
After two days of dry running at Assen rain, arrived for race day and the 125cc stars took to the grid with more than a little apprehension at tackling the daunting Dutch track in the wet.
As the red lights went out and the field charged into the first fast right-hander, it was Toni Elias who stole the lead from pole sitter Gino Borsoi, while main loser was Lucio Cecchinello who 'sunk' to eighth.
After an incident-filled first two laps, in which Scalvini, de Angelis and Pablo Nieto -among others - crashed out, it was Borsoi who was now back in front.
Meanwhile, Championship leader Manuel Poggiali – who had worked his way up to second - lost the front of his Gilera and slid off the circuit. The San Marian soon jumped up and rejoined, but now Arnauld Vincent now in second, followed by a fast starting Steve Jenkner.
Lap 4 and Masao Azuma ran wide across the grass – tried desperately to stay in control – but fell off his Honda just metres from rejoining the track, prematurely ending the Suzuka winner's day.
So, by lap five of seventeen the order at the front was: Borsoi, from Vincent, Jenkner, Elias, Ui, Cecchinello, Muller and Smrz.
Lap six and Cecchinello suffered apparent mechanical failure on his Aprilia, as the Italian, winner of the Catalan Grand Prix, was left cruising back to the pits, putting a serious dent in his title hopes after a promising start to the weekend.
Just one lap later and leader Borsoi lost the front of his Aprilia at the back of the circuit, sending the pole sitter sliding off the track - but the game Italian, in his 69th GP start, was helped back onto the track by the Marshall's and crossed the line in eleventh place, while Vincent now led from Elias, by just over 2secs.
By the mid-point of the race Elias was all over Vincent, in what was now a duel for the lead, with third placed rider Steve Jenkner now trailing the top two by three seconds.
Elias took the lead on lap 10 with a neat move up the inside, and set off to break the tow to Vincent and claim his first Grand Prix victory. However, Vincent hung on, a surprise only because Elias had caught and passed the Frenchman with comparative ease.
6 laps to go and Elias was repassed by Vincent, the pair clearly playing with each other and counting down the laps. Meanwhile, Poggiali fell for a second – and final time – on lap 13, when as with nearly all the incidents today, the front wheel washed away.
Mere minutes later and Youichi Ui crashed into retirement from the #41 Derbi, while the top two continued serenely on up front, running nose-to-tail around the 6.049km circuit.
Behind the top two Jenkner still held third (8secs behind the lead pair), and was looking good for his first podium, while Nobby Ueda had now moved into fourth (over 20secs behind Jenkner), the TSR-Honda rain specialist having worked his way up superbly from a lowly twentieth place on the grid.
Two laps to go and Vincent still lead the Telefonica machine, but there was nothing between them and Elias looked poised to pounce. The move came with one and a half laps to go as Elias slid inside Vincent at a right hander – but had he gone too soon?
Into the last lap and Vincent was sat right on Elias' exhaust, but the blue Telefonica machine was beginning to pull out a slight lead over the Frenchman with a do or die approach around almost every corner.
Vincent was still within striking distance, but Elias rode a faultless last lap under pressure to take a well deserved first ever GP win, with Jenkner duly coming home in third.
Full results to follow…
2. Vincent +0.607secs
3. Jenkner +23.253secs
4. Ueda +33.979secs
5. Smrz +40.196secs
6. Borsoi +48.556secs
7. Giansanti +48.892secs
8. Hules +57.998secs