Marco Melandri took his third 250cc race win in a row as he followed up his Mugello and Barcelona triumphs with a crushing display at Assen on the sleek factory Aprilia.

When the Dutch rain returned just as the 250cc field were assembling on the Assen grid ahead of Saturday's 18-lap blast, riders and team managers frantically began to ponder a change to wet tyres but in typically fickle Assen style the precipitation disappeared as quickly as it arrived leaving the track dry for the start.

Making things slightly more interesting was the fact that even though the track was dry and all 28 starters were on slick tyres, the race was declared wet meaning that it wouldn't be stopped should the rains returned.

Taking things carefully from his pole position, Melandri allowed fellow front row men Toni Elias and Randy de Puniet to take the lead on the opening lap with Elias aiming to repeat the earlier performance of his Telefonica Honda 125cc counterpart Daniel Pedrosa.

However Melandri soon found his stride and was in the lead by the start of the third lap, never looking back.

At one point the Italian rider had a lead of almost seven seconds over the chasing Elias although with no risk of losing top spot he let his advantage slip to just under five seconds by the time the chequered flag fell. His third win in succession and fourth of the 2002 season moves Melandri into the points lead by eight points over Fonsi Nieto.

Elias and de Puniet fought for second place until just before half distance when de Puniet threw his machine down the road around the back of the twisting Dutch track leaving the young Spanish rider a clear run to his first 250cc podium finish.

Four riders; Roberto Rolfo, Nieto, Haruchika Aoki and Sebastian Porto (who started from the rear of the grid) disputed what was fourth place which turned into third on de Puniet's demise.

After his dismal qualification run, factory Honda rider Rolfo had to play second fiddle to the privateer Honda of Aoki for several laps before muscling his way through and giving chase to Elias. Although he was the fastest rider on the track for much of the second half of the race, Rolfo just ran out of laps and had to settle for a close third, less than two seconds behind Elias.

Porto was a fine fourth for Yamaha with Nieto fifth and Aoki a well-deserved sixth.

Roberto Locatelli had a lonely ride to seventh place and he headed another four-bike scrap across the line with Casey Stoner taking a superb eighth on his first visit to Assen. Stoner just held off the vastly experienced trio of Franco Battaini, Sharol Yuzy and the returning Ralf Waldmann while Alex Debon, Raul Jara, Naoki Matsudo and Vincent Phillipe completed the points scorers.

Jay Vincent finished 19th while Leon Haslam retired with continual mechanical problems.

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