Before the Portuguese Grand Prix, Sito Pons had restated his position that it could well be a mistake that decides the destination of the 2004 world championship. As such, he and rider Max Biaggi, third in the points, were simply aiming to get steadily closer to points leader Valentino Rossi in the remaining six rounds.

Unfortunately for Pons and Biaggi, Sunday's grand prix quickly turned into a 'worst case scenario' as the #3 Camel Honda was eliminated from the race - and almost certainly the world championship - after a collision on the opening lap.

The impact occurred as the field approached the fiddly left-right chicane, the slowest corner in MotoGP, for the first time. Ducati's Loris Capirossi had shot from eleventh on the grid to lead through the first turn and was still in command as the 990cc prototypes reached the braking area for the chicane.

At that point, second placed Rossi neatly dived inside the red Desmosedici to take the lead (top picture). Capirossi appeared to predict the move and stayed slightly wider than normal, perhaps to give Rossi room, but Biaggi - now in third and ahead of team-mate Makoto Tamada - appeared to interpret this as a chance to take second. It was a misunderstanding that would end with Biaggi on the ground and Capirossi at the back of the grid.

Unaware of Biaggi's presence, Capirossi would turn in, at which point the Roman - travelling visibly much faster - hit the brakes hard to avoid a collision (middle pic), but the speed differential was too great and Max ploughed into the back of the #65 (lower pic).

"Capirossi went very wide, going well outside the normal line on that turn," said Max afterwards. "I was right behind and with Loris going wide, as well as slowly, I held my line as he closed the throttle suddenly. Trying not to crash into him I jammed on the brakes so hard that my rear tyre left the ground."

The impact caused Biaggi to fall from his RCV and retire, while Capirossi was forced wide and would drop to the back of the pack. Later, each would later accuse the other of trying to win the race on the first lap.

"What can I say?" fumed Max. "What's the point of talking to Capirossi. Three-years ago he did the same thing to me on the last lap at Mugello and took out my front wheel. Did he want to do one lap or 28 laps?"

"It was a pity that Max tried to pass me so soon - he could have waited for a better place to attack," commented Loris.

To add to Biaggi's misery, Rossi would go on to win the race and is now a huge 51-points ahead of the Roman (who remains third in the standings, 22-points behind second placed Sete Gibernau). With 25-points for a win, and only five rounds remaining, the significance of the Estoril accident hasn't been lost on the former four-times 250cc world champion.

"This is bad for me. I don't want to think about the championship at the moment - it's obvious the situation is very difficult now, but I still can't say whether it's over for me or not," he shrugged. "There are five races left and we will wait to see what happens."

By contrast, Capirossi - riding in his 100th premier-class event - rejoined the race in 19th, then embarked on a dazzling recovery to 7th, and just ahead of team-mate Troy Bayliss.

"Once I had regained the track I started my comeback, passing a lot of riders, but the leaders were too far ahead, so I just made sure I maintained my position," said Loris. "My pace was close to the leaders' which proves we are improving the bike, though we still have work to do."

To see all 12 pictures of the Biaggi/Capirossi incident CLICK HERE.