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Rossi, Melandri and Elias quickest off the mark in Valencia

Rossi, Melandri and Elias quickest off the mark in Valencia

Valentino Rossi will take little comfort from today´s first qualifying practice for the elite 500cc class despite controlling the session from start to finish. His best time of 1´35.434 is likely to be bettered tomorrow barring adverse weather conditions, as many riders look to complete set-up adjustments at this tight, twisty Valencia circuit. Max Biaggi was one of the riders who struggled to adapt to the track today, a gravel excursion early in the session setting the tone for an afternoon of frustration for the Italian, who failed to make an impression on the top four spots. Rossi´s position at the top of the time sheets was never in real danger, although Alex Barros and Loris Capirossi did eventually close in on the Italian to take second and third positions respectively. Sete Gibernau made the most of recent improvements made to his Suzuki to join the Honda machines on the front row of the provisional grid.

´Today´s qualifying wasn´t so bad,´ said Rossi. ´We worked on the setting, the tyres and the suspension but we´re not at 100% yet and we´ll try tomorrow to make things a little better. I´m sure that with a little hard work we can get the time down to below 1´34.´

Tohru Ukawa had a consistent session and eventually set the fifth fastest lap to head the second row just in front of Biaggi in sixth. Kenny Roberts also set constant times and lines up in seventh place ahead of Garry McCoy, who thrilled onlookers and frightened the life out of his pit garage with some typically wild rear tyre sliding manoeuvres. Spaniard Carlos Checa was pushed out to ninth position, and leads a third row which also features the Japanese trio of Norick Abe, Shinya Nakano and Noriyuki Haga in that order. Alex Criville crashed in the morning session but was able to ride in the afternoon and eventually qualified in thirteenth.

Marco Melandri led an expected Aprilia attack on 250 World Championship leader Katoh, the youngster recovering from a minor crash to take provisional pole as colleagues from the Italian factory completed the front row positions. Melandri´s team-mate Harada was second fastest, whilst home riders Fonsi and Debon, of the Valencia Circuit Aspar Team, took the third and fourth positions on the provisional grid. Those encouraging performances from the Spanish duo coupled with another solid qualifying session from the consistent McWilliams, also of Aprilia, meant that Katoh was forced to settle for sixth place, just ahead of another Aprilia, ridden by Italian privateer Rolfo.

Toni Elias eventually came out on top in a fierce battle for provisional pole in the 125 class. Elias became the first ever rider to lap the Ricardo Tormo circuit under 1´41 on a 125cc machine, his last lap time of 1´40.9 proving too hot for the Italian pairing of Sanna and Borsoi, who also launched late pole assaults in a thrilling final few minutes of the session. Spanish youngster Elias had set the early pace but conceded ground to Vincent, who topped the time sheets for long periods until the late reshuffle. The Frenchman was eventually relegated to the second row, as Sanna, Borsoi and Poggiali forced their way through to take second, third and fourth respectively.

500cc, 2001, Marco Melandri, Valentino Rossi, Toni Elias

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