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Intense activity on first day of qualifying in Estoril

Intense activity on first day of qualifying in Estoril

It was only the first qualifying session for the 500cc class at the Grande Premio de Portugal in Estoril this afternoon but the intensity and determination out on the track highlighted the crucial importance of this the penultimate European race of the 2001 season. Valentino Rossi showed that he is in no mood for games as he rode on the limit to set a new pole record with a time of 1´40.389, over half a second quicker than nearest rival Norick Abe.

´Today has gone a lot better than the team expected,´ said Honda rider Rossi. ´We are very happy with the time but we know that tomorrow the other riders will be pushing even harder. My objective is just to qualify on the front row and give myself the best possible chance of a good start in the race on Sunday.´

Yamaha rider Abe celebrates his 26th birthday today and he was in line for a double celebration when he held the quickest time of the session with minutes remaining. However, a nasty high speed crash followed by Rossi´s late pole effort poured cold water on any festivities for the Japanese rider, who was simply relieved to escape with nothing more than a broken finger. Biaggi set the third fastest time of the session and is joined on the provisional front row by fellow Italian Capirossi in fourth.

Checa heads the provisional second row ahead of Barros and a resurgent Nakano, who marked his return from a hand injury with the seventh fastest time of the session. Gibernau held off Suzuki team-mate Roberts to take eighth spot and relegate the World Champion to the third row. Criville was the only other 500 rider besides Abe to fall this afternoon, returning to the track to qualify in fifteenth, whilst Australian youngster Clarke did not ride due to a crash in this morning´s first free practice session.

Tetsuya Harada took provisional pole in the 250 class with best lap of 1´42.780, with Championship leader Daijiro Katoh settling for second place on the grid despite dominating for long periods. Harada´s best lap came four minutes from the end of a session which saw Aprilia colleagues Melandri and McWilliams start extremely quickly and produce strong finishes to take up third and fourth place respectively on the front row of the provisional grid. Katoh is the only Honda on the front row despite the best efforts of David Checa, who was happy to settle for sixth spot behind fellow Spaniard Fonsi Nieto. Matsudo qualified in seventh place with Rolfo completing the provisional second row. Rolfo set his time late in the session having suffered an early crash involving De Gea. De Puniet, Battaini, Vincent and Tomas (twice) also tumbled out of the action but all escaped without injury.

Youichi Ui enjoyed typically erratic fortunes in the 125 class, setting a stunning new pole record despite twice having to push his Derbi back to the pit garage with mechanical problems. Ui´s final effort of 1´46.196 was 0.853 seconds faster than the Gilera of second placed Poggiali. Spanish 16 year old Olive´s third quickest time provided the surprise result of the session and knocked team-mate Elias off the provisional front row as veteran Italian Cecchinello hung on to qualify fourth.

Tags:
500cc, 2001

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