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Fifth successive pole for Biaggi as Nieto and Elias provide Spanish cheer

Fifth successive pole for Biaggi as Nieto and Elias provide Spanish cheer

Max Biaggi stole pole position from Valentino Rossi in unusual circumstances at the Ricardo Tormo circuit today, as the briefest of showers intervened at the end of the final qualifying session for the 500 class and allowed him his fifth consecutive start at the head of the rest. Rossi had previously clocked a new pole record which set him apart at the top of the time sheets for the majority of the session, but Biaggi gradually picked up his pace and moved up to second spot with minutes remaining. The Yamaha rider was on a fast lap when the clouds that have hung over the Valencia track throughout the day finally burst, but he bravely continued on the limit to take pole position with a time of 1´34.496. Honda rider Rossi was powerless to react as water bounced down on the asphalt, his frustration complete when the rain stopped almost immediately after the chequered flag was waved.

´I worked hard in practice, mainly on setting the bike up for the race,´ said Biaggi. ´Rossi´s bike is the strongest here, he is very fast on the entry and exits of the corners but I think I did a good job. Halfway through that last lap I saw rain on my screen but I just had to keep going. When I saw my time I thought it would put me on the front row so to be on pole is a nice surprise.´

Nakano made a slight impression on the Italian dominance witnessed this season in the 500 class, qualifying in third place ahead of Capirossi. McCoy has to settle for a second row start despite contesting top spot with Rossi at the beginning of the session, whilst Criville and Checa provided a ray of hope for the home supporters with consistent laps and a place on the second row in sixth and eight position respectively. World Champion Roberts will be sandwiched between the two Spaniards in seventh.

Fonsi Nieto took his first ever pole position from a surprise packed 250 session which saw fellow Spaniard and Valencia Circuit Aspar Team colleague Alex Debon qualify in second position. The Spanish pair, who both ride Aprilia machinery, delighted the home crowd and the Italian factory, who dominate the front row with Locatelli and Harada in third in fourth respectively. Harada´s premonition that the Aprilia was more suited to the circuit than the Honda was realised as Championship leader Katoh struggled to keep pace with the top riders and was forced to settle for a second row start. Katoh will line up in fifth spot ahead of Melandri, Matsudo and McWilliams. Rain which fell early in the session had dried up by the halfway mark and the majority of riders were able to improve their provisional times from yesterday.

There was further cheer for the Spanish supporters in the 125 class as Toni Elias set a new best pole under pressure from Sanna, Cecchinello and Sabbatani. A hectic finale to an intensely contested session completely reshuffled the grid in the dying seconds, and when the dust settled the Italian trio found themselves alongside Elias on the front row in second, third and fourth place respectively. Poggiali, who lies just 13 points behind Championship leader Elias in the current rider standings, tried in vain to improve his provisional qualifying time, and he will now start from the third row of the grid in twelfth position.

500cc, 2001, Toni Elias, Pablo Nieto

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