LORIS CAPIROSSI struck a blow for the supposedly old generation two-strokes as he beat Valentino Rossi and the new RCV to provisional pole position at Suzuka this afternoon.
Most people expected the new dawn for GP racing to begin with a Rossi romp, but it was Capirossi who stole his thunder by taking pole position on the NSR500 by four-hundreths-of-a-second.
Rossi, who had dominated this morning’s free practice session despite suffering a massive crash on the five-cylinder Honda four-stroke, had no answer to his compatriot’s pace with Capirossi clocking a best time of 2.05.05.
The West Honda rider, who took over pole position from Daijiro Katoh with 23 minutes remaining, said: " The new NSR is 50 per cent better than last year’s. It’s much better balanced which makes it easier to ride around Suzuka. Everybody expected the four-strokes to dominate, but maybe it will be closer than people anticipated. We’ll see in the race on Sunday. "
Rossi, who was lucky to escape serious injury after a high-speed crash this morning left him with a puncture wound on his left elbow and a badly grazed hand as he tried to stop himself sliding into a wall, said: " Maybe it was the wind that contributed to the crash. I fell at quite a dangerous corner and wasn’t feeling totally fit so I decided to stay calm. I damaged both my hands trying to stop myself from heading straight into a wall. "
Repsol Honda team-mate Tohru Ukawa grabbed third place ahead of a great result for former world champion Kenny Roberts on the relatively new Suzuki GSV-R.
Best Yamaha YZR-M1 went to Carlos Checa who grabbed sixth.
Jeremy McWilliams had a torrid debut on the Proton KR3, crashing out towards the end of the session to end up 21st quickest, a massive 3.2s behind Capirossi’s fastest time.
Pere Riba is out of the race having suffered muscle damage in his right shoulder after a 120mph crash at the fast 130R corner.