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Mixed fortunes for Aprilia in practice

Mixed fortunes for Aprilia in practice

It was a mixed day for the Aprilia factory as four of their 250cc riders fell in the final day of qualifying for the Grand Prix of Japan.

The worst news involved factory rider Marco Melandri who will miss the first GP of the season after falling and dislocating his shoulder. The young Italian was second quickest until he crashed and landed awkwardly. He was whisked to hospital where x-ray results confirmed the dislocation. Melandri is hoping to be fit for the South African race at Welkom in two weeks time.

Franco Battaini also dismounted and was lucky not to escape injury when he threw his Eros Ramazzotti Aprilia into the gravel with only ten minutes left in the session. It was a big crash for the Italian after he ran off the track on the first corner and lost control, but he managed to jump over the tyre wall and walk away.

Klaus Nohles made it a hat trick of Aprilia wrecks when lost the front end of his machine at high speed on the last lap. The 24 year-old German had posted the thirteenth quickest time before he trashed his bike.

Local star Tetsuya Harada, back on the 250 after his 500 experience, also crashed early in the morning session but was uninjured and could continue with his second machine.

The good news for the Italian manufacturer came in the form of Roberto Locatelli. The reigning 125cc World Champion has steadily improved over the last two days and gained third on the grid for his impressive efforts. Sunday´s race will be Locatelli´s first outing on a 250. He said: ´The 250 machine is very different because you have to use the tyres more in a race. Im not used to this as the 125 is not as powerful and tyre selection is not too important. I don´t feel any extra pressure because I am 125 World Champion; it´s great to be on front row and I´m looking forward to a good race´.

Aprilia also managed to fill six positions on the first two rows of the grid, despite the accidents.

250cc, 2001, Grand Prix of Japan, QP1

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