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Biaggi demonstrating excellent form, as Harada and Ui follow suit

Biaggi demonstrating excellent form, as Harada and Ui follow suit

Max Biaggi was in sensational form at today´s first qualifying practice for the Gauloises Czech Republic Grand Prix, sending shockwaves through the 500cc pit garages with the fastest ever lap at the Brno circuit of 2´00.347. The Yamaha rider contested top spot with Italian compatriot Loris Capirossi, but the Honda man was helpless as he watched Biaggi top his best effort by 0.740 seconds. Capirossi´s concern will be shared by Championship leader Valentino Rossi, who was off the pace for much of the session and had to settle for a provisional seventh spot.

´I could hardly believe it when I returned to the pit and saw my lap time,´ said Biaggi. ´I didn´t make a single mistake on any of the corners - it was just a fabulous lap. I think that the other riders will be more confident having seen my time today and we will see a few more go under 2´01 tomorrow.´

World Champion Kenny Roberts pushed his way onto the front row in third place and is joined by the previous holder of the coveted 500cc crown, Alex Criville. Garry McCoy marked his return to full fitness with fifth place on the provisional grid and a display of on-the-edge riding which somewhat inevitably ended in the gravel trap with just seconds remaining of the session.

The Australian emerged unscathed and will return to combat tomorrow, although Yamaha colleague Shinya Nakano is a doubt after falling in this morning´s free practice session and breaking a bone in his right hand. Alex Barros qualified sixth and Carlos Checa eighth, completing the second row alongside McCoy and Rossi.

Tetsuya Harada followed Max Biaggi´s example with an outstanding performance in the first qualifying practice for the quarter-litre class, setting a new 250cc pole record of 2´03.563. Marco Melandri and Jeremy McWilliams took turns with Harada at the top of the time sheets, as Fonsi Nieto, Randy de Puniet, Roberto Rolfo and Roberto Locatelli launched into battle to try and secure an all-Aprilia front row. Their attempts were futile, however, as Championship leader Daijiro Katoh responded with a fast lap to secure third spot on the grid between Melandri in second and McWilliams, fourth.

Alzamora joined team-mate Katoh in the battle for factory supremacy, edging his Honda onto the second row behind fellow Spaniard Nieto in fifth and ahead of Locatelli and De Puniet in seventh and eighth respectively. Rolfo was unable to maintain his early pace and eventually dropped to the third row of the provisional grid, relegated to tenth position by the Yamaha of Sebastian Porto. The session was watched by female 250 rider Katja Poensgen, who was at Brno to sign a contract with Shell Advance Honda. The German will make her first appearance in the team’s colours in two weeks time at Estoril.

Youichi Ui headed the time sheets throughout a slow first qualifying practice for the 125cc class. The Derbi flyer was rarely challenged for top spot by either Elias or Ueda, who set quicker times in this morning´s free practice. Ueda fell midway through the session but returned on his spare TSR Honda machine to make a late surge onto the front row in third spot behind Sanna, squeezing Azuma out to fourth place and knocking surprise package Talmacsi off the front row, as Elias settled for sixth. Championship leader Poggiali was one of five riders to crash out of the session, eventually qualifying in fifteenth.

500cc, 2001, Max Biaggi

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