MotoGP » 11 May 2003
Elias sends Spain wild with 250 thriller.
Although out front, Nieto appeared to be holding the leading pack of nine up, and soon fell victim to the fellow Aprilia of Poggiali – then De Puniet – by lap 5, with Rolfo next in line to pick off the 2002 event winner.
By lap 7 Poggiali had build up a 1.3secs lead, but de Puniet was soon reeling the San Marinese in, his sights firmly set on a first GP win. Behind the top two, the order was Rolfo, Nieto, West, Battaini, Porto and Elias.
Lap 9 and de Puniet was right on the rear wheel of the no. 54, foiling the former 125cc World Champion's chances of a runaway win, while further back Ant West was now the man on the move, overtaking Rolfo's factory Honda for third under braking at turn 1 – triggering a fightback from the Fortuna rider.
Meanwhile, early leader Battaini's race came to a premature end when he suffered mechanical problems and stopped at the side of the circuit.
10 to go and de Puniet grabbed the lead by out braking Poggiali into the final left hander, with the top three (de Puniet, Poggiali and Rolfo) now nose-to tail. But behind them the injured Elias was thrilling the massive home crowd by taking West for fourth to become top Spaniard, Nieto now having slipped back to 7th.
8 to go and Rolfo momentarily passed Poggilai for second, but as far as the Jerez fans were concerned there was only one man to watch – Elias. Despite his injured left hand, the Repsol rider was now in touch with the leading trio, sending the crowd into full 'home hero' support mode, in a race that was going right to the wire.
Four laps later and the crowd knew 'their boy' was on a charge when he took third from Rolfo at turn one for a potential podium finish… but could he challenge the top two…?
Meanwhile, de Puniet and Poggiali were still testing each other up front, Poggiali trying different lines and coolly planning his last lap attack – when all of a sudden Elias threw his machine underneath him at the final turn with just 2 to go! That wasn't supposed to happen.
Poggiali tried to retaliate several times around the next lap, but every time Elias proved braver on the brakes and incredibly took the lead from de Angelis into the last turn with just one lap to go!
With the fans on their feet and screaming support de Puniet panicked and ran wide in the early part of the lap, then Rolfo came from no-where to take second from Poggiali, but Rolfo wasn't done yet and almost rode around the outside of Elias to take the lead with less than half a lap to go.
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