Manuel Poggiali ended his 250cc win drought in fantastic style today at Rio, as the class rookie emerged on top after a race long duel with Toni Elias – which be decided only by a fall midway through the final lap.
Qualifying witnessed Elias streak to his second successive pole, putting him clear favourite for victory today after dominating all four practice sessions.
The Spaniard, who moved up to second in the championship with victory at Estoril last time out, was rarely threatened yesterday, although series leader Manuel Poggiali did offer some resistance and moved to within 0.132 seconds of his closest challenger for the title.
Roby Rolfo crashed in yesterday's morning practice and was off the pace in the final session, but he'll still start third today, ahead of Randy De Puniet. De Puniet's progress was at the expense of Fonsi Nieto, who crashed in final qualifying and ended up over a second slower than his best effort from Thursday.
Nieto therefore lines up fifth, and is joined on the second row by Sebastian Porto, Sylvain Guintoli and Franco Battaini.
When the red lights went out it was a Honda one-two into turn one as Rolfo led Porto, while the factory Aprilias of Elias, Nieto, Poggiali and de Puniet battled it out behind, with Guintoli, Matsudo, Debon and Bataille completing the early top ten.
2002 winner Porto hit the front midway through the second lap, but it wasn't to last as Poggiali, Nieto and Rolfo blasted past along the 1000m back straight. The Argentine's race then got a lot worse when, much to his obvious disgust, he span out of the 22 lap race.
Meanwhile, Nieto's title hopes took a perhaps terminal turn for the worse at the same time when he suddenly sat-up and cruised into retirement with obvious mechanical problems.
But back on track and Poggiali and Elias were still locked nose-to-tail up front, with a growing lead over Rolfo and de Puniet, while 16-year-old Chaz Davies was putting in a head turning ride – up to an excellent eighth by the fifth circulation of the Nelson Piquet circuit.
Poggiali and Elias would continue in formation up to - and beyond - the midway point, the pair in a class of their own as they continued to drop the equally tense fight for third between de Puniet and Rolfo, the Frenchman now ahead but unable to gain any ground on the silver and red Fortuna rider.