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Gibernau sets poignant pole record at Motegi

Gibernau sets poignant pole record at Motegi

Gibernau sets poignant pole record at Motegi

Sete Gibernau inherited the pole record from his former team-mate Daijiro Kato at the Motegi circuit this afternoon, clocking a scorching lap of 1'48.707 to take the front spot on the provisional grid. A hugely entertaining first qualifying practice initially dominated by Honda riders exploded into an open battle for the top places in the second half of the session and ended with five different factories represented in the top ten.

Yamaha's Carlos Checa set the tone for a grandstand finale when he sprang to the top of the time sheets with twenty minutes remaining, leading a string of surprise front row attacks which included Suzuki youngster John Hopkins and Colin Edwards on the Aprilia. Makoto Tamada was also quickly into his stride following his debut podium two weeks ago, and pressured the season's top two riders into a late demonstration of their superiority. First of all Gibernau stepped up to clock his sensational time, with championship leader Valentino Rossi going second fastest on the very last lap.

Rossi's late effort pushed local favourite Tamada out to third place, with Max Biaggi coming through to complete an all-Honda front row. Loris Capirossi was fifth fastest on the Ducati, heading the provisional second row from Shinya Nakano and his Yamaha colleague Checa, who eventually slipped back to seventh. Edwards completes the second row in eighth, with a late effort from Marco Melandri eventually pushing Hopkins back to tenth.

However, it was a good day for Suzuki, who also have wildcard Akira Ryo on the provisional third row in twelfth position, just ahead of Kenny Roberts. Tohru Ukawa crashed his Honda midway through the session, slightly injuring his finger and backside, and qualified fourteenth.

MotoGP, 2003

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