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Vincent takes 125 victory as Poggiali cracks
13 October 2002
Arnaud Vincent produced a tremendously cool ride in the Sepang heat to win today's Malaysian Grand Prix - and take a 26 point championship lead - after title rival Manuel Poggiali fell following a desperate last turn late breaking attempt.
Yesterday, championship leader Arnaud Vincent had waited until the last 30seconds of the session to take pole from nowhere, on a day when both his championship rivals - and then pace setters - Manuel Poggiali and Motegi winner Dani Pedrosa had crashed out, leaving Pedrosa (in particular) more than a little sore for today's race.
Vincent therefore lined up on pole for today's race, eager to continue his exceptional record of having scored points at every Grand Prix this year – and build on his slim 8 point lead over Poggiali. But when the red lights went out it was Pedrosa who made the best getaway to lead Vincent, Poggiali, Nieto and the rest of the 34 rider field through the tight right-left turn one.
Vincent didn't hang around and out braked the Spaniard mid way around the first circulation and would hold the lead as the top three began to break away – with Poggiali and Pedrosa soon squabbling over second.
By lap 4 of 19 Pedrosa had broken free of the San Marinese star sufficiently to capitalise on his superior braking ability and took the lead back from Vincent, while fourth and fifth placed men Steve Jenkner and Lucio Cecchinello were now less than 1secs behind the top three – and gaining – soon it would be a five way battle for the lead.
The 'fast five' continued nose-to-tail, with Pedrosa and Vincent swapping the lead almost at will, but neither looking to have any real advantage to break away – this one, unlike Motegi one week ago – was going right to the flag.
By the halfway mark fast starter Nieto had rejoined the fight at the front, making the order Vincent from Pedrosa, Cecchinello, Poggiali, Jenkner and Nieto (all separated by 1.2secs) with the second group consisting of Barbera, Kallio, Azuma and de Angelis respectively.
The order at the sharp end changed dramatically on lap 11 when the rear of Vincent's Aprilia stepped out on the exit of a right hander, forcing the 27 year old to back off slightly – dropping him to fourth behind Pedrosa, Cecchinello and Poggiali by the next turn.
Vincent wasn't going to wait for mistake from those ahead to get back 'on point' and instead swiftly carved his way past Poggiali and took Pedrosa on the brakes into turn one – putting him second behind the somewhat unpredictable Italian veteran.
Cecchinello would lose the lead to Vincent 1 lap later when the Imola Aprilia star smoothly cut inside the #4 machine, utilizing the wide Sepang asphalt to his advantage.
Onto the penultimate lap and Vincent was holding a 0.3secs lead over Cecchinello with Pedrosa and Poggiali covered by a further 0.4secs, with Nieto and Jenkner having dropped back from the fight at the front. Reigning world champion Poggiali was now in big trouble as far as both the race and championship were concerned and desperately needed to get at least second – but even that would increase Vincent's points lead to 13 points.
Onto the last lap and Cecchinello was now crawling all over the magnificently cool Frenchman – but he himself was under pressure from Pedrosa – with Poggiali now almost visibly desperate to challenge the top three.
But it was Pedrosa who was on the move and took second from Cecchinello midway around the final lap on the brakes – but despite being put off his line Cecchinello was able to hold Poggiali off, despite the teenager trying every way he could to capitalise his momentum.
Into the final hairpin and Vincent had the race in the bag, with Pedrosa a 'safe' second – but behind them the fight for third was well and truly on and would end in disaster for one of them…
As Cecchinello and Poggiali hit the brakes as late as they dared there was little between them, but as they turned in Poggiali pushed his front wheel a little too hard and to his Gilera team's horror it tucked under and spat him off the 'low side'. Poggiali dashed back to his bike and would remount to finish ninth but the championship could well be heading the Frenchman's way, and on toady's performance he certainly deserves it – but there's still two races and 50 points up for grabs for Poggiali to respond.
A jubilant Vincent – in stark contrast to the distraught figure seen one week ago after Motegi – couldn't conceal his delight at taking a 26-point lead, but admitted it had been a tough race.
“The heat was a big problem and made me make mistakes. It was a big fight for the win but although I hold a big lead in the championship I'm not going to change the way I ride now and will keep fighting for victories,” promised Vincent afterwards.
Full results to follow…
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