Yamaha Belgarda's Jurgen van den Goorbergh bounced back to top form at Imola yesterday, with a third place after 21 laps of the classic undulating Enzo e Dino Ferrari circuit - to move within six points of second place in the championship.

The Dutchman was held up slightly when Katsuaki Fujiwara crashed on lap six, an incident that allowed fast starting Honda team-mates Karl Muggeridge and Chris Vermeulen to make a break, and leaving Jurgen in the midst of a tremendous dogfight with Nannelli and Curtain before surviving a late fuel scare to take third.

"I'm happy to get a podium, but in a way I felt that I could've done better then third," he admitted. "I would've liked to have fought with the two leaders, but I lost the gap and it was not really possible to catch them again. Also, I lost the front end a couple of times and so thought it'd be better ease the pace a bit.

"I was lucky to get third right at the end because I more or less ran out of petrol!" he revealed. "Luckily it was on the last lap at the top of the hill, so I could get the bike hone OK, but another lap wouldn't have been possible! Now I'm just six points behind second in the championship, so the last round at Magny-Cours is going to be fun."

VDG's regular team-mate Simone Sanna didn't make a good start and was 18th at the end of the first lap, but he fought his way up though the field and ended tenth.

"There's not much to say really, except that I got a bad start and had a lot of work to do to make up for it," sighed Sanna. "It was difficult to catch up and pass because there was a lot of traffic out there. When I got into tenth place, I lost my motivation because I could see that there was not much more possible. That was that."

Yamaha Belgarda's guest rider Tekkyu Kayo also made a poor start and then found Imola a difficult track for overtaking. But he stuck to his task and - but for a small engine problem towards the end - and took a more then creditable seventh place.

"I'm happy-ish," said the Japanese. "I made a mistake at the start when I didn't get away so well and then it was very hard to catch up again. Imola is not an easy place for overtaking, so it was very hard for me. The bike was very good. The tyres were good, the bike handled well and the only problem I had was in the last couple of laps when it lost a bit of power.

"The team have helped me a lot here and I'd very much like to race with them in World Supersport next year - if it is possible. Unfortunately, I will not be at the last round (Magny-Cours) because I will be racing in the All-Japan Championship on the same day," added Tekkyu, with reference to replacing Sanna in 2004.

Another Yamaha wild-card who did his chances of a permanent 2004 ride no harm was Aussie ace Kevin Curtain. Riding for the Yamaha Germany team, Curtain was in sensational form as he scythed through to fifth place, then breaking the lap record on lap 16, before being forced to retire a few laps later when a gear selection problem meant that he was unable to change ratios.

"What a shame. Every lap I was getting more and more familiar with the bike and I was comfortably putting in fast laps," he said. "I got held up a little bit when Fujiwara crashed in front of me, but I could see exactly what was happening and was able to take avoiding action. I had a plan and felt I could continue making up places but I had to stop due to the selection problem."