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West Honda Pons piling the pressure on from the off

West Honda Pons piling the pressure on from the off

The 500cc riders had their first free practice session this morning, with the West Honda Pons team looking to pick up where they left it off in Mugello. Alex Barros, race winner in Italy, came top of the time charts, with his teammate Loris Capirossi just 0.02 seconds behind him. However it remained clear that they will get tough competition this weekend from current championship leader Valentino Rossi, who remained within 0.1 seconds of Barros, and Japanese riders Shinya Nakano and Norick Abe, fourth and fifth quickest.

The fastest times were shared out evenly between the three during the hour-long session, with Rossi probably spending more time at the top of the list. He is clearly looking to make up from errors in his home country, and returning to his familiar luminous yellow kit, he seemed as if he was back to something near his form. Nevertheless, towards the end of the session, it was Brazilian Barros, who has had a hectic couple of weeks of testing in Japan and in Spain, showing that the Mugello win was something he hoped to repeat here in Catalunya, setting a fast time of 1.46.335. West Honda Pons will be hoping that both their riders can continue these times throughout the weekend, and that a home one-two can come in front of the fans.

Regarding the riders returning from injury, Leon Haslam had to retire after just 11 laps out on the track, explaining that he was getting too much pain from his wrist, and declared that he will not ride again this weekend. Garry McCoy made a solid showing, with a 12th fastest time. It was Olivier Jacque however who was most impressive, setting a respectable 8th fastest lap, and under a second behind Barros. There were no fallers in the session.

500cc, 2001

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