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Rossi turns up the heat at Sepang

Rossi turns up the heat at Sepang

Rossi turns up the heat at Sepang

After smashing the pole record time at the Sepang circuit in first qualifying yesterday, Valentino Rossi today turned up the heat on his MotoGP rivals with a string of scorching laps and a significantly improved time in the final session. The World Champion, who could retain his crown with victory here in tomorrow's delayed race which starts at 15:30h local time, raised the bar after just five laps with a new record time of 2'03.508 before virtually securing pole position with ten minutes remaining of the session in 2'02.480.

Carlos Checa came closest to threatening Rossi's superiority with a late charge to second place in an impressive time of 2'02.885, improving his provisional time by around two seconds despite crashing into team-mate Marco Melandri early in the session. Makoto Tamada dropped one place from provisional second to third but starts from the front row for the second successive race, just ahead of last year's winner Max Biaggi, who starts from fourth.

Shinya Nakano continued his impressive qualifying form to seal his sixth second row start of the season in fifth place, whilst Loris Capirossi dropped from the provisional front row to qualify sixth. Sete Gibernau, who must take nine points back off Rossi tomorrow to keep his slim title challenge alive, qualified seventh fastest, with Tohru Ukawa completing the second row in eighth.

Nicky Hayden dropped from the second row to the third in ninth place, just ahead of fellow American Kenny Roberts who continued to impress on the Suzuki in tenth. Troy Bayliss was eleventh fastest on the Ducati, with Yamaha rider Alex Barros completing the third row in twelfth. Marco Melandri was unhurt in the crash with Checa and will be fit to start from fourteenth on the grid.

MotoGP, 2003, Marlboro Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix

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