Motorcycling: Doohan equals Agostini record

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The Independent Online
Michael Doohan, the world champion, won the Czech 500cc Grand Prix in Brno yesterday, equalling Italian Giacomo Agostini's long-standing record of 11 wins in one season.

The Australian, who secured his fourth consecutive world title at Donington a fortnight ago, led from the start but relinquished the lead to his Honda team-mate, Tadayuki Okada, with eight laps to go. The champion then calmly stalked the Japanese rider and regained the lead with just over two laps left, taking Okada with a magnificent pass on the inside. The Japanese then appeared to touch tyres with the leader as he tried to retake the lead, and slid off.

Doohan finished 14.858sec ahead of Italy's Luca Cadalora on a Yamaha, while the Japanese rider Nobuatsu Aoki took third. It was the 45th win in Doohan's nine-year grand prix career and his ninth consecutive triumph this season. With three races left, he should beat Agostini's 1972 record for season's wins.

"I got to a point where I couldn't pull away and Okada was eventually right on me," the 32-year-old Doohan said. "After he passed me, I had to wait for him to make a mistake, which he eventually did, but his bike was very fast today." The win gives Doohan 295 points for the season out of a possible 300.

Doohan said he was still undecided on who he will race for in 1998, his 10th season in the 500cc class. "I'm still talking with Honda - they have given me the time so I must give it to them as well," he said.

Just as impressive as Doohan's win was the fourth place by Spain's Alex Criville, who was making his return after missing five races with hand and tendon damage suffered in June. Criville, who will need more surgery after the season ends, was not sure if he could race the entire distance, and had his rear brake handlebar lever removed.

The 250cc race saw another superb battle between the top three riders in the class, with the Italian reigning champion Max Biaggi regaining some momentum by beating Frenchman Oliver Jacque. Tetsuya Harada of Japan came third to hold on to his slim lead in the standings.

Carl Fogarty closed the gap on the American John Kocinski in the ninth round of the world superbike championships at Assen, in the Netherlands yesterday. The British Ducati rider won the second of the afternoon's two races and finished second to the American in the first to move to 312 points in the standings. This puts him just two points behind Kocinski with three rounds to go.