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West fells giants for first 250cc victory

28 June 2003

Having stepped onto the podium for the first time just two weeks ago, Aussie privateer Ant West won his first ever GP in a wet 250cc Dutch TT today, literally muscling his way past the likes of Elias, Nieto, Battaini, Rolfo and Poggiali to lead at the end of the first lap – before facing a late race onslaught from Franco Battaini.

Yesterday, in qualifying, Manuel Poggiali went from strength to strength, continually improving his lap times to consolidate his provisional pole position with a new circuit record.

As several of the top riders concentrated on their set-up for today's race, it was not until the second half of the session that the lap times began to pick up, although Poggiali remained in supreme control at the top of the time sheets as he systematically destroyed the previous pole record held by Marco Melandri.

Randy De Puniet moved to within 0.536 seconds of Poggiali to seal second place on his last lap, relegating Toni Elias and Fonsi Nieto, who did not improve his provisional time, to third and fourth place respectively.

Nieto only just hung on to his front row slot as Sebastian Porto edged to within 0.054 seconds of an all-Aprilia front row on his Honda. Porto was joined on the second row by factory team-mate Roberto Rolfo, sandwiching the Aprilias of team-mates Sylvain Guintoli and Franco Battaini.

However, all previous form was thrown in doubt by pre-race rain – and having seen a first time winner dominate the previous 125cc race, few would bet against a similar surprise in the quarter-litre outing under those conditions.

When the red lights went out it was Elias who made the best getaway, leading team-mate Nieto into turn one, before Nieto grabbed the advantage on the exit of the opening 'kink', only for Poggiali to take the place from him soon after.

But men on the move were Ant West and Robby Rolfo, who had muscled their way into second and third after just half a lap – with West sensationally out-braking Poggiali into the final chicane to lead the field over the line at the end of lap one.

By contrast, Elias had dropped from his early lead to 12th at the end of lap one – and fading – after hitting unknown problems, but was still in a better position that team-mate Nieto, who was left stranded at the hairpin when his Aprilia hit mechanical trouble.

After the frantic first few laps, the order at the front stabilised with West in class of his own up front, holding a 4.4secs lead over Campetella team-mates Guintoli and Battaini.

By the midway point, West's quest for a first GP victory was looking slightly less secure as new second placed man Battaini took some time from him, only for the Aussie to respond as the advantage see-sawed from lap to lap.

Guintoli had now been dropped by Battaini and was 6secs further back in third, but was five seconds ahead of the first real fight between Poggiali, Porto and Rolfo.

Into the final three laps and West had pinned his advantage against Battaini to over 6secs, as the #14 continued his faultless ride to victory on what was now a slowly drying track - but Battaini wasn't done yet...

The Italian veteran sent shockwaves into West's Abruzzo garage as he stole 2secs over Ant by the start of the penultimate lap, and looked to have a shot of victory. However, West's nerve held and he would take the flag - and a breakthrough victory - by 2.9secs.

Guintoli completed a fantastic day for the Campetella team with third behind his team-mate, while Poggiali collected vital championship points with fourth ahead of the Hondas of Porto and Rolfo. Elias would finish a lap down in 18th.

Full results to follow...

1. West
2. Battaini
3. Guintoli
4. Poggiali
5. Porto
6. Rolfo
7. Nigon
8. Gemmel


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