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Intense first day in Australia

Intense first day in Australia

Intense first day in Australia

Warm and sunny weather conditions illuminated a dramatic first day of qualifying at the Phillip Island circuit this afternoon, where Valentino Rossi clocked a new MotoGP pole position record just hours after seeing his young friend and Honda colleague Dani Pedrosa break both his ankles in a nasty practice crash. The 125cc World Champion, who wrapped up the title just five days ago at Sepang in Malaysia, was airlifted to hospital in Melbourne where he was due to undergo an emergency operation. Whilst the fracture on his right ankle was clean, his left ankle was badly twisted and doctors predict a recovery period of up to 40 days before he can begin to walk – definitely ruling him out of the final Grand Prix of the season in two weeks' time at Valencia, his home race.

The first qualifying practice for the MotoGP class was also interrupted by a crash for Marco Melandri which saw the session red-flagged for around ten minutes. However, the Italian was uninjured and quickly returned to the track to try and keep up with an electric pace being set by home rider Troy Bayliss. The gritty Australian battled for top spot with recently re-crowned World Champion Rossi, with both riders dipping under the pole record set at this circuit one year ago by Jeremy McWilliams on the two-stroke Proton KR3. Bayliss' brave effort was foiled with just minutes left when his Ducati team-mate Loris Capirossi, a renowned last lap specialist, and then Rossi with a time of 1'30.631 edged to the top of the time sheets to deny a memorable home provisional pole.

Max Biaggi completes the provisional front row with the fourth fastest time of the day, edging out Honda rival Sete Gibernau by just 0.002 seconds. Nicky Hayden was sixth fastest ahead of Carlos Checa on the Yamaha, whilst Garry McCoy enjoyed his best session of the season so far with the eighth quickest lap in front of his home crowd. Kawasaki team-mate and fellow Australian Andrew Pitt also performed well for the locals, setting the twelfth fastest time and provisionally qualifying on the third row. Last year's pole setter McWilliams, now riding the Proton V5 four-stroke, came within one tenth of a second of his previous best here to clinch ninth on the grid in the absence of his team-mate Nobuatsu Aoki. The Japanese rider was taken to a local hospital for x-rays after injuring his neck in a practice crash this morning.

Tags:
MotoGP, 2003, SKYY VODKA Australian Grand Prix

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