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250s get off to an exciting start as Katoh sets the tone

250s get off to an exciting start as Katoh sets the tone

It was Championship leader Daijiro Katoh who got the 250s off to a thrilling start this morning as he set the fastest time in their first free practice session. It was an hour punctuated by many excellent performances, but none able to match those of the runaway title contender Katoh. Many different racers set fastest times throughout the session, including Rolfo, Matsudo and Harada, but eventually a series of exceedingly quick laps established Katoh at the head.

The Japanese rider, who was away in Valencia testing last weekend, showed the others the way with a 1´43.137 set on his 19th of 21 laps. It was the fluid and consistent nature of his riding which once again caught the eye, and his main title rival Harada will have to pull something out of the bag if he is to maintain his run of four consecutive pole positions and if he aims to chip away more of Katoh´s colossal lead of 35 points. He managed the fourth fastest time today, 0.733 behind his compatriot.

There was another good practice performance from the Briton Jeremy McWilliams, but the most surprising of all came from Aprilia rider Franco Battaini, whose late charge saw him move into second place, only for the Northern Ireland rider to relegate him to third after the chequered flag had gone out. Behind the front four came an impressive Matsudo, a resurgent Rolfo, and Marco Melandri, who recovered after a hefty fall early on in the session and a lowly 14th position at one time, to come home seventh fastest. There were a number of other fallers, including Alzamora who also succumbed to the final chicane which has seen so many riders go out already today.

250cc, 2001, Grande Premio Marlboro de Portugal, FP1

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