Valentino Rossi completed his clean sweep of the 500cc class in 2001, taking victory after a thrilling duel with early race leader Norick Abe, in today's Spanish Grand Prix.

500cc man of the moment Rossi, got a reasonable get-away from pole - but it was Abe who lead around the first corner from Shinya Nakano, but Rossi soon moved ahead of the Gauloises Yamaha rider and went on to take the lead from Abe mid-way round the lap.

Into lap 2 and Rossi began to pull away from Abe, Nakano and, amazingly, Jurgen Van den Goorbergh! However, Kenny Roberts found a way past the Proton machine, run by his father, soon after.

Lap 3 of 27 and the man on the move was second place qualifier Loris Capirossi, the Italian moving past Roberts into fourth as he set off in pursuit of Nakano, the West Honda Pons rider now the quickest person on the track.

1 lap later and Capirossi slipstreamed past Nakano along the back straight, and set his sights on second placed Abe, with Rossi in turn being caught by Abe.

Lap 5 and Abe, who had impressed with his qualifying pace, was now crawling all over Rossi's black and yellow machine, with Capirossi still closing on the pair of them.

Lap 8 and Abe was looking likely to pass the Italian for the lead of the Spanish Grand Prix at any moment, the Japanese rider looking like he had every chance of adding to his tally of three GP victories.

Meanwhile, the battle for fourth was still raging between Nakano, Roberts, Barros and Biaggi, Criville (the leading Spaniard) and Ukawa - with barely a bike length between them all.

However, the Spanish fans were soon cheering wildly when 1999 champ Alex Criville began charging through the field, passing Roberts for fifth on lap13, to the delight of the local fans.

The Repsol Honda riders next target was fourth placed Shinya Nakano, while Abe passed Rossi for the lead on the inside setting off a bar-to-bar battle between the pair for the next few corners before Rossi was forced to yield.

Biaggi ran into the gravel soon after and Capirossi made a similar mistake soon after, both the Italians rejoining the track, but having allowed the local hero Criville to move up two places, as he continued to chase Nakano for what was now third.

Criville made his move at the end of the start/finish straight, the move announced by a huge roar from the partisan crowd. Meanwhile at the front of the field Rossi began looking at passing Abe at the end of the back straight, but backed off, apparently in the knowledge that time was on his side.

11 to go and Criville, 5secs behind the lead pair, began setting some very quick lap times giving hope to the Spanish fans of an unlikely victory, while the 'chess game' at the front continued.

The #6 Yamaha lead the Italian, despite the Nastro Azzuro riders half-hearted attempts to unsettle the usually erratic Abe, but the Japanese rider continued to hold station at the front of the 500cc field for lap after lap.

Rossi made his move into the lead with 6 laps to go by cutting inside the Yamaha into the final corner in what looked like an easy pass, and soon began to pull away in his now normal fashion.

The young Italian underlined his dominance by setting the fastest lap of the race on his first clear lap for some time, putting over 2secs between himself and Abe in the space of one lap!

The main battle at the front now seemed to be between Criville and Abe, the Spaniard reeling in Abe by over 1sec a lap, with Nakano tagging along for the ride in fourth.

The final couple of laps saw Criville eat into Abe advantage, to be less 1.3secs behind with 2 laps to go, while Rossi reigned supreme out front.

Onto the last lap and Criville had cut the gap to 0.8secs, with the crowd wildly urging Criville on. Abe however, responded in the early part of the lap and that gave him enough of a lead over the Repsol Honda - and he duly took the runner-up spot, while Criville crossed the line clearly delighted to be on the podium for one of his home Grand Prix.

Olivier Jacque, who had qualified in twentieth place, failed to take the start after experiencing problems with his injured wrist.

Full results to follow...

1. Rossi
2. Abe +2.307secs
3. Criville +2.805secs
4. Nakano +4.157secs
5. Ukawa +5.932secs
6. Barros +7.577secs
7. Roberts +14.459secs
8. Capirossi +18.920secs