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Aoki finishes first – but it's a Honda Pons 1, 2!

By lap 6 Rossi had finally made his way into fourth, while Biaggi began to edge away – helped by the West Honda Pons teammates battling tooth and nail for second, and holding up the #46 NSR 500.

Rossi slid underneath Capirossi on the next lap for third, at the very corner he crashed at last year, while Roberts continued to slip back down the order being overtaken by Ukawa.

Back at the front Barros had now caught Biaggi's red and white machine, with Rossi now sitting on the Brazilian's exhausts. Barros' only hope of easing the pressure was to move ahead of Biaggi, and a neat slipstreaming manoeuvre saw him take the lead with 15 to go.

However, Barros raised his right hand midway around the lap to signal that the rain was now too heavy to continue, and the race was immediately red-flagged. The riders then returned to the pits to prepare for part two of what had been a thrilling Italian Grand Prix.

With positions taken from the preceding lap, the grid would line-up half and hour later as follows: Biaggi, from Barros, Rossi, Capirossi, Roberts, Ukawa, Criville, Abe, Checa and Gibernau tenth.

However, Rossi shocked his Nastro Azzuro team by crashing from his NSR Honda on the way to the grid when the rear stepped out. Rossi was sent sliding down the road – unharmed – but his Honda would take no further part in the proceedings.

The Italian hero made it back to the pits and jumped onto the spare bike ready to start the second race, which would now have the added complexity of aggregate timing deciding the outcome on a now drenched racetrack.

When the red lights went out, Biaggi made a storming getaway from pole, while Haruchika Aoki rode around the outside of almost everyone to move up to third – before overcooking the next corner and running into the gravel.

Meanwhile, wet weather specialists Roberts, Abe and Haga soon moved to the fore, while Barros overtook Biaggi on the track (but Biaggi still led on aggregate thanks to his 0.5secs advantage), ahead of Roberts.

Roberts took the lead on what was now lap nine, ahead of Barros, Biaggi, Abe, Ukawa and Haga. Meanwhile Rossi was way back in fifth (aggregate) but behind Aoki (who had rejoined the circuit) on the track.




Related Pictures

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Alex Barros - West Honda Pons.
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