Doohan is back on victory trail

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The Independent Online

The world champion, Michael Doohan, won the 500cc Italian Grand Prix in Mugello yesterday after almost coming off his Honda for the third race in succession.

The Australian, seeking a return to winning ways after falls while leading in Spain and Germany last month, survived a scare on the sixth lap when he lost his line on a corner and rode off on to the grass at the side of the circuit. That allowed his compatriat, Daryl Beattie, and the Spaniard, Alberto Puig, to surge past him, but the defending champion regained his lead three laps later.

Doohan, nursing a finger injury, held off the challenge of Beattie on a Suzuki and his fellow Honda rider Puig with relative ease to record his third win of the season. However, Beattie remains on top of the overall standings after six races with 119 points Doohan is second with 95 and Puig third with 83.

The Australian was not satisfied despite a winning margin of more than three and a half seconds. "I can't seem to do it without drama at the moment," he said. "Fortunately I got back on the track and we still won but it's not as easy as it used to be," he added after the 22nd victory of his career.

The winner of the San Marino Grand Prix on the Mugello circuit in 1993 and in the Italian Grand Prix here 12 months ago, Doohan said that he had been in pain after catching his injured finger on the bike early in the race.

Doohan and Beattie have now won five of six grands prix this season, Puig winning his home race at Jerez last month. But Beattie has been a model of consistency, finishing every race with wins in Japan and Germany and three second places. His seventh spot in Spain was his worst result to date.