Lucio Cecchinello won today's Catalan Grand Prix after a thrilling race long duel with local hero Toni Elias, which went down to the last lap.

Two day's of qualifying had seen Cecchinello dominate proceedings, but the MS Aprilia rider was totally swamped at the start and it was Elias who led at the end of the long start/finish straight, while Cecchinello had slipped to ninth.

Championship leader Gino Borsoi was also having a hard time of it as he ran wide into the gravel - leaving him all but last.

Meanwhile at the front, Nobby Ueda was closing on Elias, the Mugello winner having got a good getaway to keep his second place start at the first corner. Behind Ueda, Stefano Perugini (another front row starter) was up to third, ahead of Hules and Sabbatani.

By lap five Cecchinello had fought his way well and truly back into contention, taking a handful of places each lap, and passing Ueda for second at the quick chicane halfway around the lap.

Cecchinello then hounded Elias, eventually slipstreaming past the youngster along the home straight - taking Ueda with him and dropping Elias to fourth, behind Perugini, by the first corner.

Into lap 9 of 22 and Elias was not giving up, the Telefonica MoviStar Honda rider fought his way back to second ahead of the equally impressive Stefano Perugini on the Italjet, with Ueda fourth.

The Japanese veteran made that third along the huge start/finish straight at the start of lap 10 - but Ueda fell form his TSR-Honda seconds later - taking Perugini wide with him, although the Italian did a magnificent job of staying on the machine.

All this meant that the Catalan fans would now see a straight fight between Elias and Cecchinello for the Grand Prix win, while Poggiali now held third ahead of a long line of riders.

Lap 14 and Elias' teammate Daniel Pedrosa was not to be outdone, as he began to pressure Nieto for fourth, with Poggiali still trying to close the now seven second gap to the lead pair.

Seven to go and the Poggiali-Nieto battle for third continued, with the pair swapping places all around the track, before the whole group order changed every lap as they slipstreamed each other - often three abreast - along the main straight.

Just under 5 laps left and Elias made his move at the front to take the lead from Cecchinello, the Catalan rider sweeping around the Aprilia on a right hander - but Cecchinello seemed to clearly let the youngster through.

Nevertheless, the crowd were delighted to see the youngster leading, and the partisan fans cheered him all the way round, while the Italian shadowed his every move. The #9 Aprilia retook the lead with 3 to go, in a move identical to Elias' move earlier.

Meanwhile, the battle for third could go to any one of four riders with Poggiali, Nieto, Jenkner and Azuma all in contention.

Onto the last lap and Elias was firmly lodged on Cecchinello's rear tyre along the main straight as the crowd all got to their feet.

Cecchinello held his ground while Elias applied an enormous amount of pressure, looking either side of the Aprilia. Elias tried to out-brake the Italian down the inside heading into a left hander towards the end of the lap - but Cecchinello was having none of it and held firm on the outside, despite the two touching as they aimed for the same piece of tarmac.

That move signalled the end of Elias' challenge, the 18 year old being slowed as he tried to hold his bike upright, nevertheless both riders had given an excellent display of close, hard, but fair racing.

Outside of the leading duo, Masao Azuma fell out of third on the last lap to put a severe dent into his world championship hopes, giving the final podium place to the Manuel Poggiali - who also takes the lead in the World Championship standings.

Full results to follow...

1. Cecchinello
2. Elias +0.573secs
3. Poggiali +6.764secs
4. Jenkner 6.854secs
5. Ui +7.029secs
6. Nieto +7.558secs
7. Pedrosa +7.778secs
8. Olive +18.438secs



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