Doohan closes on third title

Motorcycling
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The Independent Online
Michael Doohan, the 500cc world champion, lines up for his 500th 500cc grand prix tomorrow as Imola hosts the San Marino Grand Prix after an eight-year absence. If Doohan wins and his closest rival and Honda team- mate, Alex Criville of Spain, fails to finish, the Australian will clinch his third world title in three years.

Doohan leads Criville by 52 points with four rounds, including Imola, remaining. But neither Doohan nor Criville has raced at the radically redesigned 3.04-mile (4.89-kilometre) track.

The changes to the circuit follow the deaths of Formula One world champion, Ayrton Senna, and Roland Ratzenberger, of Austria, during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. The high-speed Tamburello curve at the end of the finish straight where Senna died has been replaced by a double chicane.

Luca Cadalora, third in the championship, and the local hero Loris Capirossi carry the Italian flag in the 500cc category, but many home fans will be looking to the other races.

The double 250cc world champion, Max Biaggi, brings a 37-point lead to Imola while two Italian teenagers, Valentino Rossi and Ivan Goi, are racing before their home fans for the first time since winning the last two 125cc grands prix.

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