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Tamada puts title feud in the shadow at Sepang

Tamada puts title feud in the shadow at Sepang

Tamada puts title feud in the shadow at Sepang

Makoto Tamada took provisional pole position for the Marlboro Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang today to overshadow an intense battle for psychological supremacy between feuding title rivals Valentino Rossi and Sete Gibernau.

Light rain at the start of the first official qualifying practice saw several riders run into the gravel on the first lap, but provided an entertaining battle for provisional pole as their subsequently cautious approach intensified towards the end of the session and culminated in a record-breaking lap of 2'02.394 from Tamada.

"I've tested a lot on this track, I know it really well, and I have a lot of data, something I can't say about a lot of the other tracks in the championship," commented Tamada.

"We started with a consolidated base set-up and we only made some small changes. The settings have changed slightly since the winter tests, but thanks to this base we could immediately go quick, even in the morning free practice.

"The tyres have also made a remarkable leap forward since then, they have improved a lot and you can see that. The heat doesn´t bother me either, we suffer less here than in Qatar - here it's practically cold!"

Whilst Michelin-shod riders Gibernau and Rossi joined Tamada on the provisional front row, the Japanese was one of several Bridgestone riders to make swift progress this afternoon. John Hopkins qualified fourth fastest on the Suzuki whilst Kawasaki pair Alex Hofmann and Shinya Nakano made up the provisional second row in fifth and sixth respectively – all three riders using the Japanese rubber.

Ducati riders Loris Capirossi and Troy Bayliss continued their steady progress with provisional third row starts, qualifying either side of Honda's Max Biaggi in seventh and ninth.

Carlos Checa was the next Yamaha behind Rossi, over one and a half seconds slower than his colleague, whilst Nicky Hayden, who left this circuit with the fastest time after three days of preseason testing in February, struggled to eleventh on the Honda. Ducati's Neil Hodgson briefly led the session before slipping to twelfth place ahead of former World Superbike rival Colin Edwards, riding the Honda.


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