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De Puniet escapes the pack

De Puniet escapes the pack

De Puniet escapes the pack

The 250cc pack began the hunt for preseason favourite Randy De Puniet today, closing in but not quite catching him as the Frenchman cruised to a new pole record of 1'35.300 and front spot on the quarter-litre grid for the seventh time in his career. Sebastian Porto was the closest of the chasers, lapping within 0.079 seconds of his Aprilia factory colleague and briefly sitting on provisional pole position. The Argentinean will head the chase again tomorrow, when Manuel Poggiali and Dani Pedrosa, reigning World Champions in the 250cc and 125cc classes respectively, also start from the front row.

Pedrosa's fellow rookie Alex De Angelis, who finished runner-up to the Spaniard in the minor class last season, also made an encouraging start to the year as he qualified fifth, heading up the second row from Fonsi Nieto, Roberto Rolfo and Eric Bataille, who qualified inside the top eight for the first time.

Rolfo and, in particular his team-mate Toni Elias, did not enjoy the ideal start to the season with the new Honda 250RSW, with the Spaniard struggling to the eleventh fastest time and starting from the third row behind Hiroshi Aoyama and Franco Battaini. Only a last lap effort from Nieto edged Hector Faubel to the outside of the third row, with Chaz Davies dropping back to thirteenth spot after competing for the top positions throughout an encouraging session.


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