23 September 2001
Poggiali snatches classic 125 win.
In one of the most exiting race seen this, or any other year, Manuel Poggiali went from fourth on entering the final corner to the lead as he edged out Championship rival Toni Elias by a mere 0.022seconds following a race long ten bike scrap for the win at Valencia.
After witnessing some of the most committed and brave motorbike riding you are ever likely to see it is almost impossible to believe that many participants in Sunday's awe inspiring ten rider battle for the lead in the 125cc Grand Prix around the sinuous Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia were still in their teens or they kept the 140,000 hyperactive fans that lined the natural amphitheatre in Eastern Spain.
When the chequered flag finally fell and the timing and scoring screens recovered from the shock, Manuel Poggiali's name sat at the top of the pile and yet going into the final corner the 18 year-old Gilera rider was fourth and behind the vastly experienced Yuichi Ui, man of the moment and local demi-God Toni Elias and Elias' bitter foe Simone Sanna.
Entering the corner Elias and Sanna sat side by side and with Elias clinging to the inside when Ui made a do-or-die move up the very inside to make it three wide and cause Elias to inadvertently nudge Sanna off-line. Ui too had left his breaking too late and despite having the lead for few metres, he could not help but mount the kerbing, in turn spoiling Elias' run onto the home straight. Just metres behind the leading trio, Poggiali brilliantly anticipated the chaos ahead and took a wide line into the turn thus ensuring maximum exit speed and momentum down the long start/finish straight.
It was this momentum that enabled Poggiali to nose ahead of Elias as the two sprinted to the line with 'Poggy' claiming the glory by 0.022 seconds over the Telefonica Honda Jr rider. The end result was a product of a remarkably mature yet aggressive ride from the San Marino native for although he did not spend any real time at the head of the field, preferring to sit in 5th or 6th most of the way, he always positioned himself well in case any of those around him lost their heads. Although all ten of the leading combatants looked like being about two metres away from a major crash at various points throughout the race, none did and so therefore Poggiali had to win the hard way.
Ui maintained enough pace to only lose one more position in the final frantic scramble for the flag as 15 year old Daniel Pedrosa on the second of three Telefonica Jr Honda's involved in the battle rose from the lower reaches of the group in the closing five laps of the 25 lap event to grab his first podium in front of his adoring home fans.
Sanna however fell to sixth as a result of Ui's over exuberance and was pipped to the line by two thousandths by Gino Borsoi who was perhaps the most invisible member of the group throughout the race.
Steve Jenkner lead for the majority of the opening ten laps on his Aprilia but could maintain his place at the head of the train and crossed the line in seventh ahead of another relatively long-time leader Lucio Cecchinello who paced the field for three whole laps before making way for the rabid group of teenagers who eventually monopolised the podium. Ninth went to Max Sabbatani who entered possibly his best career performance and certainly his best ride of the year to cross the line just two seconds behind Poggiali while Juan Olive in the third Telefonica Jr Honda rounded out the top ten, a massive 2.078-seconds behind the winner.
Without wishing to sound cruel, the rest of the field didn't matter such was the ferocity of the lead duel but some 15 seconds behind the main event, Gabor Talmacsi finished a creditable 11th ahead of Stefano Perugini, Mirko Giansanti, Pablo Nieto and Angel Rodriguez who was the fifth Spanish rider in the points in 15th position.
In the excitement nobody noticed Arnaud Vincent's miserable run to 18th or Masao Azuma's shocking 23rd position while Noboru Ueda would have made it an eleven bike battle for the lead had he not crashed on lap seven.
With four races to go, the gap in the Championship is now just six points between Elias and Poggiali with the four final flyaway races at Motegi, Phillip Island, Sepang and Rio de Janeiro yet to come. Whatever the outcome of this year's title chase, you can rest assured that the future of Grand Prix bike racing is more than safe and that the next breed of heroes are already preparing to take their place on the higher stages.
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