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Rossi leads Biaggi by 21 points

LONDON -- Italians Valentino Rossi, Max Biaggi and Loris Capirossi could cause an upset at Sunday's British 500cc motorcycling grand prix.

But only in the unlikely event that none of them gets to
finish on the podium.

The Donington Park track, next door to the East Midlands
airport, hosts the latest round of what has this season looked
more like the Italian national championship than the top
category of a world series.

The statistics tell the story:

  • Italian riders have been on pole in every race and won
    six out of seven.

  • Rossi, Biaggi and Capirossi have swept the podium for the
    last two races in succession and could well complete their
    hat-trick at Donington.

  • The same trio dominate the championship standings.

  • Italians have filled 15 of the 21 podium places so far in
    2001 and in six out of seven races there have been at least two
    of them in the top three.

    To add to the feeling that the Italian national anthem is
    likely to be heard once again on Sunday afternoon, there is the
    fact that Rossi won at Donington last year for his debut victory
    in 500cc racing.

    The exuberant Italian is the only man to win in every class
    at Donington and also rides a Honda, who have won five of the
    last six British Grands Prix.

    Biaggi by contrast has never finished on the podium at the
    circuit in 500cc in his last three attempts while Capirossi has
    been on pole but not yet won this year.

    Title race
    Rossi, on 136 points, leads Biaggi in the championship by 21
    points but his Roman rival can claim to have the upper hand
    after winning in the wet at Assen in the Netherlands last
    weekend.

    That was his second win of the season after Rossi ran away
    with the first three races and a fourth later in Spain.

    "I feel I'm riding at the top of my form at the moment, my
    best ever," says Biaggi. "We've improved the set-up of my bikes
    over the past two or three races and that's helped a lot."

    The two rivals are not going to win any friendship awards,
    having made as much noise this year for two bad-tempered
    incidents that earned them warnings from the International
    Motorcycling Federation (FIM).

    The last was in Barcelona last month, when they were
    involved in a fracas on a staircase before the podium ceremony.

    The Italians can expect to dominate the show but there are
    other candidates for victory, such as Spain's former champion
    Alex Criville who won at Donington in 1999.

    Ironically, the only race the Italians have not won this
    season was their own Italian Grand Prix, taken instead by
    Brazilian Alex Barros on a Honda.

    Yamaha's Australian Garry McCoy will be absent after
    injuring his wrist and deciding to wait until the German round
    later in the month before he gets back to racing.

    McCoy will be replaced by Briton Jason Vincent.

    World champion Kenny Roberts will also be hungry to get his
    season started, having so far failed to make a top five finish on his Suzuki.

    American Roberts was second last year on a wet track.

    "We're going to Donington with a firm conviction that we can
    win," said team manager Garry Taylor.

    Japan's Norick Abe will make his 100th grand prix start, all
    in 500s, becoming the youngest ever rider to reach that
    milestone at 25 years old.