Rossi on pole in South Africa

Valentino Rossi starts as a red-hot favourite for tomorrow’s South African GP at Welkom after a commanding display saw him grab pole position this afternoon.

The 23-year-old Italian wasn’t bettered after he’d beaten Loris Capirossi’s provisional pole time from yesterday within seven minutes of today’s final qualifying getting underway.

He would improve his time on a further five occasions to show just why he is going to so hard to beat on Honda’s new five-cylinder RCV.

His best time of 1.34.66, which knocked 1.3s of his time from yesterday, beat his own lap record by 0.9s but was still a fraction outside of his pole time last year when he was riding a two-stroke NSR500.

Rossi, who won the first GP at Suzuka two weeks ago, said: " We’ve got a good set-up but it is really hard to ride around here because of the bumps. We’ve found a tyre that should be ok in the race as well so I’m pretty confident. "

Once again though the two-stroke honour was held up by the never-say-die Loris Capirossi. He was just three-hundreths-of-a-second slower than Rossi but he was lucky not to have a massive crash 21 minutes into the session.

Twice his bucking NSR tried to spit him off after it got into a huge tank-slapper but he some how saved it.

Third place went to Tohru Ukawa on the second RCV while Max Biaggi put some of his problems behind by claiming the last place on the front row on the Yamaha YZR-M1.

Britain’s Jeremy McWilliams ended up 16th fastest while ride of the day went to Garry McCoy. Despite still suffering from the double break in his right leg from testing, he ended up fifth slashing just over two seconds off his best time from yesterday.

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MCN Staff

By MCN Staff