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Rossi takes pole at steamy Sepang

Rossi takes pole at steamy Sepang

Rossi takes pole at steamy Sepang

Valentino Rossi wrestled the psychological advantage from Sete Gibernau in their personal battle at the top of the MotoGP World Championship in hot and humid conditions at the Sepang circuit today.

Rossi dislodged provisional pole setter Makoto Tamada from the time sheets midway through the session with a new record lap, increasing his pace in the late push for times to leave the benchmark at 2'01.833.

Gibernau himself was bumped off the front row at the chequered flag by his factory Honda colleague Alex Barros, who burst into second place to outdo a stunning qualifying performance by Shinya Nakano on the Kawasaki.

Nakano had propelled himself to within touching distance of pole before Barros' late effort, but will still start from the front row for the first time riding the Kawasaki on his 27th birthday tomorrow.

Gibernau's late relegation to fourth place from third sees him start just metres behind Rossi at the head of the second row. The Spaniard also chases the Italian in the championship, with a 14-point deficit at the top of the standings and only three races remaining.

Makoto Tamada was unable to improve on his provisional pole time in today's session and slipped to fifth place, whilst Nicky Hayden recovered from an unconvincing performance in yesterday's first qualifying session, knocking over two seconds off his provisional time to seal the final second row position in sixth.

Max Biaggi also made progress after a disappointing first day, knocking a second and a half off his lap time to move up to seventh at a circuit where he celebrated victory two years ago.

The Honda rider is joined on the third row by John Hopkins on the Suzuki and Carlos Checa, the closest Yamaha rider to Rossi. Colin Edwards and Ruben Xaus, who both finished on the podium at the last round in Qatar, both struggled today and qualified 12th and 14th respectively.


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