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Italians steal show at home Grand Prix as action hots up in Mugello

Italians steal show at home Grand Prix as action hots up in Mugello

Valentino Rossi took pole position in the final qualifying practice for the 500 class, dominating the session and holding off the challenge of Kenny Roberts, who qualified second on the grid for the second successive race. Whether the World Champion will be able to hold his position when the race gets underway however remains to be seen, as he is joined on a formidable front row by Rossi´s compatriots, Loris Capirossi and Max Biaggi, who will be going all out for glory at their home circuit.

It´s the showdown everybody was hoping for and it promises to be a thrilling race from start to finish as the Italian trio go head to head from the moment the red light goes out.

´I´m pleased to be on pole but here it has less relevance to how the race will go than other places because there are a few riders out there who are desperate to win,´ said Rossi, who sported a new Hawaiian look on his bike and leathers. ´I could have set a quicker time if I hadn´t got caught behind Castka on a fast lap, but luckily my previous time was enough to do the job. It will be a tough race.´

Rossi carried provisional pole into the session and his position at the top of the time sheets never looked in any real trouble. With Roberts deciding to wait in the garage to see how the early stages of the session developed, it wasn´t until the final half hour when Capirossi and Alex Barros warmed up that any sort of threat was aroused. Even then, Rossi set a series of fast laps to post a pole time out of the reach of the rest of the field and delight his masses of supporters banked around the Tuscan circuit.

It was a hectic final few minutes as Biaggi relegated Barros from the front row to fifth and Alex Criville moved up alongside the Brazilian in sixth spot – his best qualifying position of the year so far. Jurgen vd Goorbergh, who has looked in good shape on the KR3 all weekend, will start from a very creditable seventh, whilst Carlos Checa completes the top eight.

In the 250 category an Aprilia blitz put an end to Daijiro Katoh´s 100% pole record this season, with Tetsuya Harada just edging out veteran wildcard Marcellino Lucchi to take the primary position on the grid with a circuit best lap. Lucchi crashed out midway through the session, breaking three bones in his foot, and will undergo a medical in the morning. Jeremy McWilliams made the front row with solid riding throughout the day which saw him qualify as the third fastest rider, whilst Randy de Puniet also put in an excellent performance to ensure an all-Aprilia front row.

Roberto Locatelli leads a second row that features Daijiro Katoh in sixth position, Franco Battaini in seventh and Marco Melandri in eighth. Katoh´s Honda is the only non-Aprilia to make the top ten qualifiers, as Alex Debon and Roberto Rolfo completed an almost perfect day for the Italian factory.

Youchi Ui wrote himself into the 125cc record books with his fifth consecutive pole position from the first five races of the season – the first rider to pull off such a feat since modern records became available in 1974. The Derbi rider will be joined on the front row by Toni Elias, Lucio Cecchinello and impressive wildcard rider Andrea Ballerini.

500cc, 2001

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