Doohan makes sure of third championship

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The Independent Online
Michael Doohan took his third consecutive 500cc world championship after finishing second behind Carlos Checa in the Grand Prix of Catalonia in Spain yesterday. For Checa, a local man, it was the first win of a promising career and some compensation for falling while leading last year's race.

Doohan said: "It's unbelievable. At the beginning of the year I just didn't think this was possible." He said that Checa's performance had helped him. "He took the lead and that was good. It took the pressure off, meaning I could finish lower down."

Doohan, who only needed to finish second to make sure of the title, fulfilled his pre-race promise of sticking to Alex Criville, the only rider who could catch him in the overall standings.

Luca Cadalora was first off the grid, but was unable to contain Checa, who took the lead on the third lap. Behind him, Criville and Doohan were involved in an battle that saw the Honda riders exchange places nine times.

Although Doohan could have allowed Criville to take second, the Australian pulled out the stops to beat the Spaniard by 0.049sec. It was a fitting climax to a season dominated by the rivalry, and occasional conflict, between the two.

With two races remaining Criville's performance guaranteed him second place in the championship, the best classification ever obtained by a Spaniard. "It would have been nice to win at home, but Checa went really well." Criville said.

Tomomi Manako celebrated his first 125cc win in more controversial fashion. The Japanese rider grasped his right arm at the elbow and repeatedly raised a finger in what appeared to be a traditional Latin insult. "I didn't know what it meant, I was saying 'No 1'." he said.

GRAND PRIX OF CATALONIA (Montmelo, Sp, 25 laps, 118.175 km): 1 C Checa (Sp) Honda 44min 56.885sec; 2 M Doohan (Aus) Honda 45:03.476; 3 A Criville (Sp) Honda 45:03.525; 4 L Cadalora (It) Honda 45:03.993; 5 T Okada (Japan) Honda 45:04.014; 6 S Itoh (Japan) Honda 45:18.752; 7 A Puig (Sp) Honda 45:22.824; 8 A Barros (Braz) Honda 45:23.760; 9 L Capirossi (It) Yamaha 45:23.990; 10 N Abe (Japan) Yamaha 45:55.513. Fastest lap: Checa 1:47.183, (99.23mph, unofficial record). World championship standings: 1 Doohan 276pts; 2 Criville 215; 3 Cadalora 149; 4 Barros 134; 5 Abe 132. Constructors' championship: 1 Honda 320; 2 Yamaha 175; 3 Suzuki 139.