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Ukawa takes first 500 pole of the year, Fonsi and Youichi to start from the front in 250 and 125

Ukawa takes first 500 pole of the year, Fonsi and Youichi to start from the front in 250 and 125

Tohru Ukawa became the first non-Italian rider to take pole position in the 2001 season with the fastest lap of a well contested final qualifying practice at the Nelson Piquet circuit this afternoon. The Japanese rider´s best effort of 1´51.431 was the pinnacle of a series of fast laps set during the final stages of the session and it proved enough to hold off the challenge of Loris Capirossi and Kenny Roberts, who qualified in second and third place respectively. Ukawa´s compatriot Nakano completes the front row in fourth.

´I am surprised but very happy to be on pole position,´ said Ukawa afterwards. ´Our problem this season has been that I haven´t been able to qualify well up the grid consistently and very often the lead group have escaped. Hopefully this time I can get a good start and stay at the front throughout the race.´

Rossi was unable to defend his provisional pole position and struggled to find any sort of rhythm before setting the fifth fastest time late on. The World Champion heads a second row which also features Gibernau in sixth ahead of Checa and Jacque in seventh and eighth respectively. Biaggi, who would lose out on second place in the championship if he were to score five points less than Capirossi tomorrow, qualified in tenth despite briefly flirting with top spot. Haga did not take part this afternoon and has withdrawn from the race with a tooth infection.

Fonsi Nieto took his second pole position of the season in the 250 class by just 0.041 seconds from Daijiro Katoh. The World Champion had dominated the time sheets for most of the session once he had dislodged McWilliams from top spot, but Nieto went almost wheel to wheel with the Japanese rider to snatch pole with just over five minutes remaining. McWilliams ended up third fastest behind Katoh, with Locatelli completing the front row in fourth place. Harada was unable to better his provisional qualifying time for much of the session but eventually stepped up his pace to take fifth spot on the starting grid. His team-mate Melandri suffered similar fortunes and could only manage seventh place despite setting the provisional pole time yesterday. The pair are joined on the second row by Matsudo in sixth and De Puniet in eighth.

Youichi Ui will start the 125 race from the front of the grid after setting a new pole record for the class towards the end of the final qualifying session as title rival Poggiali crashed out. The Japanese rider will be hoping for similar circumstances tomorrow, when he must win and hope Poggiali scores less than three points if he is to win the title. Ballerini will line up on the front row for the second time this season in what is only his second race after qualifying ahead of Pedrosa and Elias in third and fourth respectively. Poggiali was unhurt as he fell with just over a minute of the session remaining, his best time up to that point enough for qualification in fifth place.

500cc, 2001

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