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De Puniet defeats Nieto for first GP victory.

Randy de Puniet finally took his first ever GP victory, after nearly 40 starts, in today's 250cc Catalan Grand Prix, the flying Frenchman emerging on top after a race long battle with Fonsi Nieto – while Catalan Toni Elias made up an amazing 21 places after being left second to last into turn one.

Qualifying had seen De Puniet hold on to pole position despite failing to improve on his provisional Friday time.

The LCR star would start from the front of the grid for the second race in succession, although he was no doubt be hoping to improve on his race performance from last weekend, when he crashed out of second place when challenging Manuel Poggiali for the race lead.

Poggiali again starts from a menacing second on the grid after improving his provisional time to move ahead of Elias. The Spaniard was unable to make any progress with his lap times yesterday, but survived pressure from Franco Battaini to hang on to third.

Honda riders Sebastian Porto and Roberto Rolfo qualified in fifth and eighth respectively to sandwich Fonsi Nieto and Naoki Matsudo on the second row.

Into today's race and local superstar Elias had a nightmare start – he may as well have stalled – after remaining virtually stationery while the rest of the field threaded their way past him, leaving the Repsol Aprilia second to last into turn one.

But up front it was Poggiali who led the field through the right left chicane, from Porto, de Puniet, Nieto, Battaini, West, Debon, Matsudo and Guintoli.

The San Marinese wouldn't lead for long as first Porto, then de Puniet took over by the end of the first lap – with Elias overtaking nine riders to sit 15th with 22 laps to go.

Soon filling the home favourite void left by Elias was team-mate Fonsi Nieto, one of the major disappointments of the year so far – a fact made frequently clear to him by his home media.

Fonsi was looking back to his old self as he passed de Puniet with an aggressive out-braking move to lead de Puniet and Poggiali, as the top three began to break away.



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