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Tamada takes debut pole at Estoril

Tamada takes debut pole at Estoril

Tamada takes debut pole at Estoril

Makoto Tamada took pole position for the first time in his career in a dramatic end to the final qualifying session for the Grande Premio Marlboro de Portugal today. With a wet morning practice limiting grip on the Estoril track surface despite sunny and warm conditions in the afternoon there were barely any changes to the provisional grid as the riders struggled to lower their times from yesterday. However, a stunning last lap from Tamada saw him snatch pole position from Valentino Rossi with a record time of 1'37.933.

"I am very, very happy and I would like to give my thanks to Bridgestone, who came up with a great tyre," said Tamada, who gave the Japanese rubber manufacturer their first win at Rio three races ago. "I am still a little bit worried about the weather but it should be okay and I am hopeful of a good race tomorrow."

Rossi and Sete Gibernau both start from the front row despite failing to improve their times, Gibernau lapping over half a second off his pace from yesterday. Max Biaggi came up with a lap which threatened to dislodge his team-mate Tamada from pole position at the very last breath but fell short in the final section and the Italian had to settle for a second row start in fourth place.

Biaggi is joined on the second row by Honda colleague Alex Barros, who was fastest in the morning free practice despite crashing for the second time this weekend, and John Hopkins. Sixth place for the American youngster represents his best grid position for Suzuki since signing at the start of the 2003 season and equals the previous best grid of his career riding a Yamaha in 2002.

Marco Melandri climbed to seventh on the grid after surprising the Portuguese crowd with a new colour scheme. The flamboyant Italian youngster appeared in ‘Spiderman' style leathers, boots and helmet, with his Yamaha M1 also decorated in the colours of the comic book hero. Melandri is planning to auction off all his gear, including the fairing of the bike, in aid of the ‘Emergency' charity, who provide medical relief to war and landmine victims around the world.

Melandri is joined on the third row of the grid by American pair Colin Edwards and Kenny Roberts on a Honda and Suzuki respectively, whilst his Yamaha collague Carlos Checa completes the top ten. Ducati rider Loris Capirossi, making his 100th premier-class start, was another rider unable to improve his provisional time and he starts alongside Checa on the fourth row in eleventh place, just ahead of Shinya Nakano on the Kawasaki.


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