Garry McCoy continued to repay the faith shown in him last time out by the Red Bull Yamaha team, taking a crushing victory in the Portuguese Grand Prix.

The diminutive Australian had to play second fiddle to early leader Sete Gibernau's Honda, after the Spaniard made a flying getaway from the third row but, once ahead, had little to fear from those behind him.

Gibernau held sway for the first five laps of the contest, and initially looked to be pulling out a gap as his medium 17-inch rear tyre out-performed the 16.5s behind him. McCoy, though, was just getting into his groove and, by lap five had reeled the Repsol bike in. Through at the start of lap six, the Yamaha was never headed again and, having disposed of Gibernau's immediate threat, set about building an unassailable lead.

Gibernau's race slowly got worse, being swallowed up by Kenny Roberts and Valentino Rossi by two-thirds distance, and then suffering the biggest high-side of the season. Both bike and rider were off the ground as they headed into turn two, with Gibernau being spat almost as far as the gravel trap on the outside of the corner, before landing and sliding to a pained halt. Behind the rapidly disintegrating Honda, Max Biaggi had to sit up and lost touch with his chase of Rossi.

With McCoy heading into the distance, focus switched further down the order, before coming to rest of the battle between the two Italian rivals. Biaggi, so dominant at Brno two weeks ago, had worked his way towards the top three through the early part of the race, but had no answer when Rossi came flying through from twelfth on the grid. Not an acknowledged fan of the Estoril layout - he described it as making the Sachsenring look like Indianapolis - Rossi was nevertheless making a better fist of the race than he had of practice, and could sense a potential podium right from the minute that he joined the Gibernau-Biaggi battle.

Slipping past the Roman Emperor on lap 17, the Nastro Azzuro rider then made short work of Gibernau and, when second-placed Roberts was delayed by an inattentive Sebastien LeGrelle, made rapid inroads into the American's advantage. A new lap record on the very last tour brought the Honda right to the back wheel of the Suzuki, but Roberts had just enough coming out of the last corner to hold on to second spot.

''For me, the main importance of the last five or six laps was to stay in front of Biaggi,'' Rossi revealed, ''and I had a hard fight with him for the places. Then I closed in on Kenny over the last lap - when I set a new fastest lap - but it was very difficult to catch right up to him. I am still very happy with third, though, especially after starting from twelfth. Being on the podium is almost like a victory for me.''

It could quite easily have been two Telefonica Movistar bikes on the rostrum, but second-place starter Nobuatsu Aoki dropped it on the opening lap and, narrowly avoiding the barriers, skated into an ignominious retirement at the chicane..

There were precious few drop-outs elsewhere, however, leaving a squabbling pack of riders to chase down the possibility of a podium over the early laps. Norick Abe was the first to hold fourth place, before being usurped by Biaggi and Rossi, and would go on to only finish ninth.

Front row starter Jurgen van der Goorbergh made a good getaway before seeing his V-twin swallowed up the four cylinder bikes around him. The Dutchman still managed to have a good scrap with the two remaining Repsol bikes, however, as Alex Criville came off worse at the first corner scramble, and spent much of his afternoon running fast laps in an attempt to recover from an early 14th position. The reigning champion went on to take sixth, behind the second Red Bull bike of Regis Laconi, and just ahead of team-mate Tady Okada. van der Goorbergh finished eighth.

Neither Pons bike showed at the front in Portugal, with Alex Barros tenth and Loris Capirossi - still nursing hand injuries - 13th. They were separated by the Aprilia of Jeremy McWilliams and the disappointing Yamaha of former championship contender Carlos Checa. Tetsuya Harada and Mark Willis, on the Modenas, completed to point-scorers.

Back at the front, Roberts decided that discretion would be the better part of valour on a day coloured by unpredictable winds and, save for the late wake-up call posed by Rossi, was content to ride safely for second.

''It was difficult not to think of the points situation today,'' the American admitted, ''I did what was needed for the championship really. I could have done with a better start - I tried to stay with Garry, but figured that I was not able to beat him in the race today, as I was fighting all the time to make up for what we were losing on the straights. To be honest, I'm happy to get out of here with second place.''

McCoy did well to disguise his joy at taking a second win of the year, and becoming just the third man to win from pole position in 2000. With the security of a two-year deal with WCM in his pocket, the Australian is already being tipped as a potential championship contender next season,

''At the start, all I saw was Sete when he passed,'' me McCoy smiled later, ''I decided to follow him and see what I could do, then passed him when it was obvious that my bike was quicker. From then on, it was really just a case of trying to keep everything together. I made a couple of small mistake, but the gap kept growing. It was a great feeling, and one I had been waiting for for a long time.''

It really was that easy in Estoril.

Full results of all classes will follow shortly....

Leading finishers - GP500.

1. Garry McCoy Yamaha
2. Kenny Roberts Suzuki
3. Valentino Rossi Honda
4. Max Biaggi Yamaha
5. Regis Laconi Yamaha
6. Alex Criville Honda
7. Tadayuki Okada Honda
8. Jurgen vd Goorbergh Honda
9. Norick Abe Yamaha
10. Alex Barros Honda
11. Jeremy McWilliams Aprilia
12. Carlos Checa Yamaha
13. Loris Capirossi Honda
14. Tetsuya Harada Aprilia
15. Mark Willis Modenas