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

Lap 11 and Barros continued to lead Roberts on the track, the Brazilian now also leading overall thanks to his slim time advantage over third placed Biaggi, while Roberts' position was good enough for third overall at this point (ahead of Ukawa and Abe).

Lap 12 and the battle for the lead on track was now a four-way affair between Barros, Roberts, Biaggi and Abe with Ukawa heading the second pack. Roberts moved ahead of Barros to lead the race, leaving Biaggi needing to stick to Barros' rear wheel to take the overall win – but the Roman was himself under pressure from Abe by now.

Meanwhile Aoki was now ahead of Capirossi on the track and chasing Ukawa hard for fifth – the ex-125cc star riding around the outside of the Repsol Honda, and revelling in the tricky conditions, with 10 laps to go.

Aoki now had his sights set on gate crashing the Abe/Biaggi battle for third, Abe, sensing the trouble he could find himself in from the charging Arie Molenaar Racing Honda, squeezed inside Biaggi soon after, giving him some breathing room from the fastest man on the track.

Any relief was only temporary though, because Aoki was soon past Biaggi – and after Abe once again! Meanwhile, Biaggi himself was soon embroiled in another battle with countryman Capirossi, who duly eclipsed, the #3 machine before the end of lap 16 of 23.

Across the timing beam for the seventeenth time and Abe swept into second, then into first, just a few corners later – with Aoki barging his way through Barros AND Roberts in the space of a few corners to keep now race leader Abe in his sights.

Barros blasted by Aoki (22secs down on Biaggi after the race was stopped) along the main straight to make full use of Honda V-four power, but Aoki was much quicker through the twisty sections and was soon back in front of the Brazilian.

5 to go and Capirossi out braked Barros (the leader on corrected time) into the first corner to give West Honda Pons a provisional one, two, ahead of Norick Abe (the leader on track), Roberts, and Rossi.

Back at the front and Aoki was still shadowing Abe, but he fell soon after hitting a puddle towards the end of the lap – meanwhile Roberts fell into the first corner – both riders losing potential podium places.

All this meant that Haruchika Aoki was sensationally leading the Italian Grand Prix (even if he was just tenth on aggregate), and making full use of the opportunity to show what he could do in front of the world best.

Therefore, with two laps to go, the aggregate order was: Barros, Capirossi, Biaggi, Rossi, Criville and Gibernau.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Alex Barros - West Honda Pons.
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