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Roberts, Harada and Elias make early progress at Motegi

Roberts, Harada and Elias make early progress at Motegi

500cc World Champion Kenny Roberts today set the provisional pole time for Sunday´s Pacific Grand Prix of Motegi in cool conditions at the Japanese circuit. The Suzuki rider maintained his good form from Valencia a fortnight ago, where he picked up his first podium position of the season, to record the quickest lap of the day ahead of Barros, Capirossi and Biaggi respectively. Rain had impeded this morning´s free practice session but the asphalt was sufficiently dry this afternoon for the riders to take to the track on slick tyres.

´We finally have some new parts and they have put us in the top positions, which is where we should have been all season long,´ said Roberts. ´That´s how you defend a World Championship, but unfortunately that hasn´t been the case for us this year. If things go as planned we can expect another podium finish here in Motegi.´

Honda Pons team-mates Barros and Capirossi were consistently fast throughout the afternoon session, often occupying the top two positions on the time sheets. Meanwhile Roberts and Yamaha man Biaggi gradually picked up their lap times to break up a provisional front row which had previously featured the Yamaha of Noriyuki Haga and Valentino Rossi´s Honda.

Rossi was forced out to the second row thanks to Roberts´ late effort despite a last lap best of his own and he lines up in fifth place on the provisional grid ahead of Haga in sixth. Gibernau latched on to Rossi to set his fastest time of the day and promote himself to seventh position, relegating Nakano to eighth and pushing Jacque out to the third row. The Frenchman is joined by Checa, Abe and McCoy in that order.

Harada came out on top in a battle of wits with title adversary Katoh in the fight for 250cc provisional pole position. Aprilia rider Harada took the advantage by 0.420 seconds as the pair dominated this afternoon´s first qualifying session. Melandri, McWilliams and Alzamora led the battle for the remaining front row spots, with Katoh´s Honda team-mate Alzamora struggling from a cheek injury and eventually sliding down the classification to qualify in eighth. Melandri sealed third and McWilliams fourth to ensure three provisional front row spots for Aprilia. Alzamora takes up the final position on a second row headed by Locatelli, who recovered from a crash to set his fastest time, with Matsudo and Debon in sixth and seventh respectively.

Toni Elias held off the challenge of home riders Ui and Azuma to take provisional pole position for the 125 race. The Japanese pair were unable to maintain late surges in heavy traffic and were forced to settle for second and third place on the grid respectively. Giansanti did find a clear run after the chequered flag had been waved and he grasped the opportunity to complete the provisional front row with the fourth fastest time of the session. Poggiali recovered from a slow start which saw him at the foot of the classification for much of the early stage of the session to take a provisional seventh spot.

500cc, 2001, Toni Elias

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