Capirossi leads qualifying in South Africa
Loris Capirossi again blew away the myth that the new generation four-strokes would cruise to this year’s new MotoGP world championship after he comfortably stuck his two-stroke Honda NSR500 on provisional pole position in Welkom this afternoon.
The Italian’s best time 1.35.39 set with just over a minute of the opening qualifying session remaining was good enough to secure top spot despite the best efforts of Daijiro Katoh, Tohru Ukawa and reigning champion Valentino Rossi.
Capirossi was as hot as the baking South African sun as his time beat Rossi’s lap record by 0.2s, and left his compatriot down in fourth place, 0.6s off his fastest time today.
Rossi had looked like securing pole for himself when he topped the time charts with just two minutes remaining, but he was powerless to do anything about Capirossi;s superb late surge.
Welkom is one of the few circuits on the 2002 calendar where the established two-strokes have been given a prayer by pundits.
And the fact that none of the new four-strokes had tested at Welkom during the winter certainly gave the 500 riders an early edge, despite the dirty, dusty and bumpy track causing some major problems.
Capirossi said: " The track is unbelievably bumpy but I still like it. I was really fast on the last two laps and that was because I improved through the last two sections, especially through the faster turns. "
Katoh was second striking another blow for the two-strokes while the RCV four-strokes of Ukawa and Rossi completed the front row.
Jeremy McWilliams also had a terrific session ending up eighth fastest on the Proton KR3. At one point the 38-year-old Ulsterman was fastest, topping the leaderboard with just 24 minutes gone. He bettered his time just five minutes later to increase his advantage, but his joy was short-lived as barely three seconds had passed when Rossi crossed the line and stole pole. He was still best two-stroke behind the top two of Capirossi and Katoh.
McWilliams said: " I really enjoyed that. At times I was out there having some fun with the four-strokes. "
Franco Battaini may just be a dark horse for the world 250 title after he snatched pole position at a sun-drenched Welkom circuit in South Africa today.
The Italian headed an all-Aprilia provisional front row to head off the challenge of highly-fancied Marco Melandri, who was five-hundreths-of-a-second slower.
Underlying though just how difficult conditions were in Welkom today, Battaini’s time was over 1.6s outside of Melandri’s lap record as the treacherous surface caused major set-up problems.
Behind Melandri, Fonsi Nieto and Alex Debon completed the front row.
Top Honda rider was Spaniard Emilio Alzamora who was fifth, while former British 125 rider Casey Stoner finished a brilliant sixth fastest, just 0.7s off pole.
Somewhat further adrift and facing a tough weekend is British team-mates Jay Vincent and Leon Haslam. They finished up 20th and 22nd respectively. That left Haslam in the same place he’d ended up in this morning’s free practice session, despite going 2.3s faster this afternoon.
Reigning world champion Manuel Poggiali dominated opening qualifying for Sunday’s South African 125 GP.
The Italian Gilera rider continued where he left off this in this morning’s free practice session, easily outpacing the field with Pablo Nieto his nearest challenger as he finished 0.3s adrift.
At one stage during the 30-minute session Poggiali was over a second clear, and the gap was only reduced in the closing stages as other riders stepped up the pace.
Poggiali’s best time of 1.42.92 saw him be the only rider to break the 1.43 barrier, although he was still 0.3s outside of Youichi Ui’s lap record.
Behind Nieto, Daniel Pedrosa and Lucio Cecchinello completed the provisional front row.
Championship leader Arnaud Vincent ended up fifth fastest while British teenager Chaz Davies ended up 29th fastest.
The 15-year-old was 4.2s behind Poggiali’s on his first visit to the Welkom track as he found it difficult to get used to the greasy conditions that caught out several riders.