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Biaggi, Katoh and Elias show early form at Sachsenring
Max Biaggi took provisional pole position for the Cinzano Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland in today´s first 500cc qualifying session at Sachsenring, leading a Yamaha assault which sees just three Honda machines in the top ten. Although the consistent Honda Pons machines of Alex Barros and Loris Capirossi are on the provisional front row in second and fourth place respectively, the only other non-Yamaha machine to make the front two rows is the Suzuki of World Champion Kenny Roberts, in sixth. Shinya Nakano lines up between Barros and Capirossi in third, whilst Carlos Checa, Olivier Jacque and Norick Abe complete the second row in fifth, seventh and eighth positions respectively.
´We´ve made the bike more stable, which allows me to be more agile through the first section,´ said Biaggi. ´Nothing´s changed with the chassis, it’s just a few tweaks to the front and rear suspension. The track changes are good, though they´ve not radically changed the overall character. The new part is wider, with a faster corner, which means riders can use different lines. That should make overtaking easier, which will make the racing more interesting.´
Sete Gibernau took his Suzuki to ninth place, consigning Championship leader Valentino Rossi to tenth spot on this first day of qualifying, although with his victory from eleventh place on the grid at Donington Park a fortnight ago still fresh in the memory, Biaggi will be careful not to read too much into today´s time sheets. Garry McCoy marked his return to action with the eleventh fastest time of the day having been second quickest behind Checa in this morning´s practice, whilst former World Champion Alex Criville only just made the third row in twelfth position. Leon Haslam, riding for the first time on the V4 Honda vacated by Chris Walker, was 17th fastest of the afternoon session.
Daijiro Katoh took a comfortable provisional pole position in the 250 class despite a frantic final five minutes which brightened up an otherwise dull first qualifying practice in the 250 class. Katoh, Marco Melandri, Jeremy McWilliams and Roberto Rolfo remained untouched in the front row positions for long periods, until late fast laps from Sebastian Porto and Emilio Alzamora made for a dramatic finale as the top six positions continually chopped and changed.
When the dust settled it was Melandri who had arrived closest to Katoh, with Porto in third and Rolfo completing the front row of the provisional grid in fourth. McWilliams held off Alzamora to head the second row in fifth, with Fonsi Nieto seventh and Tetsuya Harada eighth.
Toni Elias followed up his first ever pole position in the last race at Donington Park with provisional pole here in Germany, increasing his growing reputation as the man to beat in the 125 class. Max Sabbatani was just 0.008 seconds slower than the Honda rider however and will settle for second place on the grid at least until tomorrow´s final qualifying sessions get underway. Sabbatani was closely followed by fellow Italian Sanna, third on the grid, whilst Spanish rider Nieto´s late efforts were enough to seal him a place on the provisional front row.
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