Manuel Poggiali took his first ever MotoGP win in the 125cc race at Le Mans today, after a thrilling last lap battle with Toni Elias and Mirko Giansanti that went all the way to the final corner.

Pole sitter Youichi UI was passed by Poggiali at the start, but best get away of all was Toni Elias, who leapt from sixth to second by the first corner.

Poggiali looked comfortable out front o the red Gilera, and continued to lead the pack around the 4.305km lap, meanwhile championship leader Masao Azuma was busy carving through the field - and up to eighth by lap 3 of 24.

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By lap 4 Mirko Giansanti, who had moved steadily up the order from his seventh place start, passed Ueda for third at - then put Elias down a place as well when he moved into second at his home grand prix.

Giansanti's Axo Racing Honda then passed Poggiali for the lead on the following lap, but the Gilera is definitely not short of 'grunt' and Poggiali eased back by the impressive Frenchman on the following straight.

Meanwhile, Ui was clearly dropping down the order with what appeared to be some sort of problem, the Japanese rider having sunk to twelfth by this stage.

Giansanti swept passed the Gilera again on lap 7 at the Museum corner, with Ueda's TSR Honda still poised for action in third - but not for long - as Gino Borsoi out braked the Japanese rider towards the end of the lap.

Poggiali again proved that his Gilera has the horsepower advantage as the San Marian rode around the outside of Giansanti, along the start/finish straight on lap 11, while Ui was still back in seventh.

Giansanti was bumped further down the order when he was out braked by Borsoi on lap 13, with the top five (Poggiali - Borsoi - Giansanti - Elias - Cecchinello) having now broken away at the front, with Nobby Ueda heading the second pack.

Borsoi took the lead momentarily on lap 15, but Poggiali - who crashed out of second in Jerez on the final lap, after leading most of the race - immediately re-passed the Italian.

Poggiali continued to lead, but was unable to shake off the pursuing quartet, and lost his lead with 4 to go when Borsoi slipped inside at the first corner. Poggiali looked certain to repass the Italian when he suddenly sat up at the nest corner - yellow flags - Poggiali avoided a penalty, but lost momentum.

The #54 Gilera rider would take the lead exactly where he had lost it a lap earlier, as he again made use of the Gilera/Derbi horsepower down the main straight.

2 to go and it was still to close to call, with nothing between the top five as they frantically swapped places to try and ensure they were in with a shot on the last lap.

The last lap of the French Grand Prix and Poggiali led a charging Toni Elias, with Giansanti still in touch in third.

Elias was soon up to the exhaust of Poggiali, and passed the Gilera with just a handful of corners to go, but Poggiali held on around the outside, slowing Elias and allowing Giansanti to follow the Gilera past the Spaniard at the last chicane.

But the race was all about Manuel Poggiali, who deservedly took his first ever MotoGP win, after threatening to do so on several occasions this year, and also Gilera's first victory on their return to Grand Prix racing this year.

Giansanti and Elias could also be pleased with their podium finishes, with both having shown their potential in a thrilling 24laps of the Le mans circuit.

Full results to follow....

1. Poggiali 43mins 33.372secs
2. Giansanti +0.218secs
3. Elias +0.298secs
4. Borsoi +0.515secs
5. Cecchinello +0.969secs
6. Vincent +7.357secs
7. Ueda +7.940secs
8. Azuma +8.464secs
9. Hules +8.751secs
10. Nieto Jr. +11.523secs
11. Ui +11.962secs
12. Jenkner +12.496secs
13. Sanna +12.514secs
14. de Angelis +20.667secs
15. Sabbatani +35.012secs