11 May 2003
Elias sends Spain wild with 250 thriller.
An injured Toni Elias sent the home fans wild in Jerez today, by winning the 250cc Spanish Grand Prix in a thrilling finale that saw countless lead changes on the last lap before Elias achieved the impossible and held off a hard charging Roby Rolfo.
Elias punched the air with delight - and disbelief - as he crossed the line, triggering celebrations that only happen when a Spaniard wins in Spain: Flag waving and deafening 'Toni, Toni' cheering from the masses, before he ran through the gravel trap to celebrate with the huge 'bowl' of fanatical fans, where he abided by tradition by lighting his own line of the almost military strength fireworks.
Yesterday, Randy De Puniet took pole position for the second consecutive race, and third time ver, after a hard fought battle in the hot afternoon sunshine, recovering from a crash late in the final session to snatch top spot from Manuel Poggiali on his reserve machine.
With Franco Battaini also riding strongly it had become a three way Aprilia tussle for the front spot on today's starting grid, but De Puniet's 1min 44.723secs finish was enough to edge out series leader Poggiali to second spot and hold back Battaini in third.
The final front row position went to Roberto Rolfo, who finished second here last season and is showing signs of progress on the Honda.
Whilst the injured Toni Elias was unable to improve on his time from Friday, team-mate Fonsi Nieto, who took his first GP victory here last year, did make slight progress and qualified just ahead of his fellow Spaniard in fifth place.
Sebastian Porto suffered another crash but made the outside of the second row in eighth place, just behind Australian Anthony West.
Onto today's race and Fortuna Honda rider Rolfo pleased his home sponsors by grabbing the holeshot, but it wasn't to last as Nieto barged past into turn two, but the aggressive move would cost them both as Battaini took advantage to lead the field around at the end of lap 1, from Nieto, de Puniet, Rolfo, Poggiali, Elias and West.
Pole sitter de Puniet was soon pressuring Fonsi for second, but the Spaniard was given a welcome break when Battaini bobbled on the exit of turn one, allowing the Repsol rider back into the lead. De Puniet and Poggiali would follow Nieto past the out of rhythm Italian in the following turns.
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