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Poggiali takes photo-finish victory in Estoril.

Lap 7 and Poggiali was really beginning to craw over Ui, resulting in a neat slipstreaming manoeuvre at the end of the back straight mid-way around the Portuguese circuit, while Sanna also began to catch the Japanese veteran.

Two laps later and Elias attempted to get on terms with Sanna into turn one – but left his braking too deep, allowing Sanna back through. Elias finally made the move stick soon after though, while the unfortunate Nobby Ueda crashed from his TSR once again.

Lap 10 and Ui retook the lead after having followed Poggiali carefully for the preceding three laps, while Elias began to close the gap to the two up front and by lap 12 the Spaniard was right on the rear wheel of Poggiali, while Sanna dropped back.

Positions remained unchanged until lap 15 when Elias slipstreamed ahead of Ui along the main straight, then began to pressure Poggiali for the lead – to the delight of the Portuguese crowd.

Into the next lap and the three way fight for victory looked to be becoming a tactical game as Ui and Elias swapped position several times over one lap as Poggiali appeared to back off his pace – but without allowing the others past, although it did allow (fourth placed) Sanna to close considerably.

By lap 19 Elias was slipping away from the top two, who had cut their lap times considerably as they began the sprint to the finish. Ui's next lap would also be the fastest of the race so far, but Poggiali was still holding firm in second and could not be shaken off by Ui.

Meanwhile, Sanna could see Elias – and the final podium position – getting closer and closer, as the Spaniard seemed to have struck some sort of problems.

Three laps to go and the top two were still inseparable, and now literally in a race of their own. Coming onto the main straight Poggiali stayed in Ui's slipstream and continued to stalk the Derbi, even though a pass looked possible.

Onto the last lap and Poggiali followed Ui into turn one, but the battle was also on between Elias and Sanna for third as the two swapped positions viciously several times.

The two thrilling fights went right to the flag with Sanna and Elias cutting each other up at every opportunity before Elias sliced inside Sanna approaching the long final turn, forcing Sanna to sit up, which lost him momentum and allowed Elias to hold onto third.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Manuel Poggiali on his way to pole at Estoril.
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