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Rossi, Melandri and Ui in control after first day of action in Brazil

Rossi, Melandri and Ui in control after first day of action in Brazil

It seemed for a while in the afternoon heat at the Nelson Piquet circuit today that Valentino Rossi was ready to relax slightly and take a back seat role in proceedings at the Cinzano Rio Grand Prix. The World Champion spent much of the first qualifying practice for the final race of the 2001 calendar some way off the tempo of pacesetter Kenny Roberts, but he came through with a fast lap to take provisional pole position after the chequered flag had been waved. Roberts, who was crowned World Champion here last year, had dominated throughout the session but was forced to settle for second place on the provisional grid ahead of Japanese riders Abe and Nakano in third and fourth place respectively.

´We had a few problems today because the track here is very bumpy – a lot worse than I remember,´ said Rossi. ´I set the best time on my last lap but I am not very happy overall and we must keep working hard. Hopefully it won´t rain tomorrow because there is not much grip as it is.´

Barros did his best to provide early cheer for the home supporters and ended with the fifth best time of the day. The Brazilian favourite lines up at the front of a provisional second row which also includes Checa, Capirossi and Biaggi in that order. Checa had fallen prior to setting his best time, whilst McCoy also tumbled into the gravel and was then only able to qualify back in twelfth.

Marco Melandri confirmed his return to fitness with the fastest time of the first qualifying session for the 250 class, after a well contested provisional pole battle with Katoh and McWilliams. The trio took turns at the top of the time sheets but it was the Italian who held top spot when the chequered flag was waved, providing himself with the ideal boost ahead of Sunday´s race when he will be aiming to seal third place in the championship ahead of Rolfo. Katoh, who took the title in the quarter-litre category just a fortnight ago, eventually set the second fastest time as McWilliams was pushed out to the second row in fifth place thanks to late efforts from Harada and De Puniet, third and fourth respectively.

Youichi Ui completed his first mission for this weekend with provisional pole position for the 125 race. The Japanese rider must produce another dominant performance and take victory in Saturday´s race if he is to have any chance of beating Poggiali to the title. He started out in the best possible way this afternoon as the San Marino rider took fourth place on the provisional grid. Elias recovered from the disappointment of his failed championship challenge to set the second quickest lap of the day ahead of surprise package Ballerini, who this week rides as a substitute for Caffiero, in third. Ballerini qualified on the front row of the grid in fourth place in his only other race this season at Mugello.

500cc, 2001, Marco Melandri, Valentino Rossi

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