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Capirossi steals headlines in Assen sunshine

Capirossi steals headlines in Assen sunshine

Loris Capirossi backed up his recent claims for recognition as a 500cc World Championship contender in today´s first qualifying session for the Dutch TT at Assen, blasting his way to provisional pole position for Saturday´s race. Capirossi has recently expressed his frustration at constantly being ignored in favour of his Italian rivals Max Biaggi and Valentino Rossi, but he cut a determined figure today as his compatriots re-acquainted themselves on the track for the first time since their infamous ´altercation´ in Catalunya a fortnight ago.

´I wasn´t too happy with my performance this morning and was a little bit disappointed with the way the bike was running´ said Capirossi afterwards. ´This afternoon on the other hand was a completely different story and I had one lap where things just couldn´t have gone better. I was really enjoying myself and when I realised I had set the fastest time of the session I was delighted. We still have lots of work to do though and will continue to try and find the right race set-up tomorrow.´

Capirossi´s perfect lap, which broke the existing pole record at the famous track, saw off the ever-present challenge of Italian compatriot Valentino Rossi, whilst his Brazilian team-mate Alex Barros was unable to challenge for second spot when he was held up on a fast lap by Tohru Ukawa. Barros made no attempt to hide his frustration, although he accepted the Japanese rider´s apology with a smile and a handshake after the session and will be satisfied with a place on the front row of the provisional grid. World Champion Kenny Roberts makes up the top four after setting consistently quick lap times and contesting top spot with the two Italians throughout the session.

With track temperature at 36ºC and a gentle but warm breeze blowing across the sun blessed circuit, hopes of a good weekend´s racing are high. Shinya Nakano was the only rider to crash out of the afternoon session but fortunately he escaped unhurt, whilst Garry McCoy and Leon Haslam both continued their rehabilitation from injury with some competitive laps.

Marco Melandri crossed the line at the chequered flag to record his fastest lap of the 250 final qualifying session and take provisional pole for the quarter-litre class in the process. The Italian snatched primary position off the nose of Aprilia team-mate Jeremy McWilliams, who had dominated the session from start to finish, whilst Tetsuya Harada also came through right at the end to relegate the British rider to third. Harada´s late surge knocked Daijiro Katoh down to fifth place and ensured an all-Aprilia front row as Roberto Rolfo hung on to take fourth. Randy De Puniet and Roberto Locatelli fell but both emerged uninjured, whilst Fonsi Nieto qualified in 15th position on the provisional grid after fracturing his right malleolus (a small bone in the ankle) in this morning´s free practice.

Gino Borsoi gave up his leadership to Manuel Poggiali in the last round at Catalunya but showed today that he is not willing to slip out of the title race just yet with an impressive performance in the first qualifying session for the 125 class which sees the Italian on provisional pole. Lucio Cecchinello and Toni Elias, first and second respectively in Catalunya, make up the provisional front row with Youichi Ui, whilst Poggiali qualified in fifth place.

500cc, 2001, Loris Capirossi

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