Manuel Poggiali beat Youichi Ui to victory in today's Portuguese Grand Prix after a thrilling photo finish saw the San Marian take the flag by just 0.011secs - while the battle for the final podium place was just as intense.

The 125cc front row of Manuel Poggiali, followed Youichi Ui, Simone Sanna and Lucio Cecchinello took their places on the grid with the pole sitting San Marian (starting from the front for the first time) needing a strong result if he was to catch new championship leader Toni Elias (22 points ahead), who was starting from fifth on the grid.

As the lights went out for the start of the 24 lap race, it was Elias who shot to the front, slicing inside Sanna at the first turn, while Poggiali slipped back to fifth.

By the end of the first lap Elias led the pack over the line, with Ui now in second, ahead of Poggiali, with Sanna having slipped to fourth, ahead of Rodriguez, who completed the lead pack.

Into the chicane on lap two and Ui was wasting no time in getting past Elias as the Derbi star cut inside the Honda to take the lead, before the drag race along the one kilometre straight began again.

Shortly after Ui took the lead, Cecchinello lost any chance of keeping in touch with the lead pack as he ran wide, while Elias' Telefonica teammate Joan Olive crashed out.

By lap four Poggiali had used his Gilera's impressive straight-line speed to move into second behind the #41 Derbi, while Elias and Sanna fought it out for third, with Sanna squeezing the 18 year old into turn one.

One lap later and Rodriguez, who had been hanging on impressively to the tail of lead pack, high-sided out of fifth as he exited the first part of the uphill chicane.

Rodriguezs' departure meant that the battle for victory was now a four-way affair with Ui and Poggiali nose-to-tail up front and then Sanna and Elias slightly further behind.

Lap 7 and Poggiali was really beginning to craw over Ui, resulting in a neat slipstreaming manoeuvre at the end of the back straight mid-way around the Portuguese circuit, while Sanna also began to catch the Japanese veteran.

Two laps later and Elias attempted to get on terms with Sanna into turn one - but left his braking too deep, allowing Sanna back through. Elias finally made the move stick soon after though, while the unfortunate Nobby Ueda crashed from his TSR once again.

Lap 10 and Ui retook the lead after having followed Poggiali carefully for the preceding three laps, while Elias began to close the gap to the two up front and by lap 12 the Spaniard was right on the rear wheel of Poggiali, while Sanna dropped back.

Positions remained unchanged until lap 15 when Elias slipstreamed ahead of Ui along the main straight, then began to pressure Poggiali for the lead - to the delight of the Portuguese crowd.

Into the next lap and the three way fight for victory looked to be becoming a tactical game as Ui and Elias swapped position several times over one lap as Poggiali appeared to back off his pace - but without allowing the others past, although it did allow (fourth placed) Sanna to close considerably.

By lap 19 Elias was slipping away from the top two, who had cut their lap times considerably as they began the sprint to the finish. Ui's next lap would also be the fastest of the race so far, but Poggiali was still holding firm in second and could not be shaken off by Ui.

Meanwhile, Sanna could see Elias - and the final podium position - getting closer and closer, as the Spaniard seemed to have struck some sort of problems.

Three laps to go and the top two were still inseparable, and now literally in a race of their own. Coming onto the main straight Poggiali stayed in Ui's slipstream and continued to stalk the Derbi, even though a pass looked possible.

Onto the last lap and Poggiali followed Ui into turn one, but the battle was also on between Elias and Sanna for third as the two swapped positions viciously several times.

The two thrilling fights went right to the flag with Sanna and Elias cutting each other up at every opportunity before Elias sliced inside Sanna approaching the long final turn, forcing Sanna to sit up, which lost him momentum and allowed Elias to hold onto third.

Meanwhile, the battle for the lead was no less thrilling with Ui holding firm in the face of Poggiali's onslaught into the chicane on the back straight, but "Poggy" wasn't finished and put everything into exiting the last, fast, final turn as quick as he could then slipstreaming the Derbi during the drag race to the flag, to take victory by just 0.011secs from a crestfallen Youichi Ui.

Full results to follow...

1. Poggiali
2. Ui +0.011secs
3. Elias +8.306secs
4. Sanna +8.473secs
5. Pedrosa +26.203secs
6. Smrz +30.439secs
7. Hules +30.513secs
8. Giansanti +31.500secs


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