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Biaggi clings on to pole despite Rossi offensive, whilst Harada and Elias also grab top spot

Biaggi clings on to pole despite Rossi offensive, whilst Harada and Elias also grab top spot

Max Biaggi´s sensational qualifying lap from yesterday was enough to seal pole position for tomorrow´s Gauloises Czech Republic Grand Prix despite the best efforts of fellow Italians Valentino Rossi and Loris Capirossi. Rossi signalled his intentions in this morning´s free practice, becoming only the second man after Biaggi to lap below 2´01 at the Brno circuit. Goorbergh surprisingly became the third as this afternoon´s final qualifying practice reached an exciting climax, but he was edged out to fourth place on the grid in the dying stages by Rossi and Capirossi, who clocked the second and third fastest laps respectively.

´We did the best we could yesterday and set a very good time, whilst today we had a couple of difficulties,´ said Biaggi. ´There was oil leaking from the engine but we didn´t know where from, and also my foot kept coming off the peg. We lost about 15 minutes fixing these problems and then spent the rest of the session testing a few tyre compounds for tomorrow´s race.´

McCoy will take up fifth place on the grid and will be joined on the second row by World Champion Roberts, who failed to improve on his effort from yesterday and is forced to settle for sixth. Criville dropped back from a provisional fourth spot to line up in eighth behind Spanish compatriot Checa, who set his best time after falling on the second lap. Haslam was the only other 500 rider to crash today, but he will line up tomorrow in seventeenth spot behind Nakano providing the Japanese rider opts to race after suffering a broken bone in his hand on Friday.

Daijiro Katoh lit the touch paper and Tetsuya Harada duly exploded to set a staggering 250 pole record in the dying stages of an otherwise dull final qualifying practice for the quarter-litre category. It took a full 55 minutes of the hour-long session before the provisional front two rows were altered, Debon leaping from fourteenth place to seventh. With just 1 minute and 25 seconds remaining Katoh leapfrogged Melandri for second place, but any thoughts the Championship leader had of pole position were immediately extinguished by Harada who launched into a fast lap to beat his previous best pole by over half a second, clocking 2´02.953.

Fonsi Nieto briefly flirted with a front row spot when he shifted up to fourth, but as Melandri just failed to improve on third with a late fast lap McWilliams pulled out the stops to squeeze ahead of his Italian Aprilia colleague and effectively relegate the Spaniard to fifth.

Toni Elias eventually emerged on top of the pile and on pole position for the 125cc race after a breathtaking final qualifying session which saw the top ten riders qualify within a second. Four men lapped under the previous best pole at the circuit, Elias coming within a whisker of the 2´09 mark at 2´09.062 to take top spot ahead of Ui, Cecchinello and Sanna. Home rider Smrz will make his first ever second row appearance tomorrow in fifth, Championship leader Poggiali has his work cut out after qualifying eleventh, with pole setter Elias lying just 3 points behind him in the current rider standings.

500cc, 2001, Valentino Rossi, Toni Elias

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