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Rossi sets pole record for home Grand Prix

Rossi sets pole record for home Grand Prix

Rossi sets pole record for home Grand Prix

Valentino Rossi will start the Gran Premio Alice d'Italia from the front of the MotoGP grid after a stunning final lap that saw him smash Sete Gibernau's pole record and hold off a strong challenge from the Spaniard in this afternoon's single qualifying session. Rossi's time of 1'49.223 on his 25th lap of the Mugello circuit in searing summer heat kept Gibernau at bay by 0.138 seconds, with Max Biaggi also in close attendance and completing the front row in third place.

"It was a great practice and a hard battle for this important pole position," commented Rossi afterwards. "At the beginning we started to work on the bike for tomorrow and at the end I tried with a qualifying tyre. I saw I was in second position and I knew I didn't have much time to stop but I came in two and a half minutes from the end and the team did a great job to change the tyre in a short time. There are a lot of riders near to me so we need to set the bike to the maximum. Hopefully the weather will stay like this - for the riders and for the fantastic crowd around the circuit."

In a thrilling finale to the session no fewer than twelve riders lapped within a second of Rossi's best time, providing a tense battle for grid positions right up to the chequered flag. American youngsters Nicky Hayden and John Hopkins both produced grandstand final laps to gatecrash the second row in fourth and fifth place respectively, relegating Loris Capirossi to sixth place just minutes after the Italian had occupied provisional pole.

Marco Melandri ran out of time on his final lap after making a late tyre change and dropped to the third row of the grid in seventh place, with Carlos Checa taking eighth despite dominating the time sheets for much of the session. Japanese pair Shinya Nakano and Makoto Tamada, making his first appearance in almost two months after breaking his wrist, complete the top ten after both launching front row attacks in the closing stages.

Kenny Roberts and Colin Edwards are the other two riders to have lapped within a second of Rossi, qualifying eleventh and twelfth respectively, whilst Alex Hofmann sealed an encouraging fourteenth place on his return to action from injury. MotoGP debutante David Checa was also impressive, qualifying in sixteenth place as he covers for the injured Yamaha rider Toni Elías.


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