Melandri impresses in MotoGP practice
The threat of a wet weekend for the fourth round of the MotoGP World championship saw all the riders trying to get their best times in a dry first qualifying session at Le Mans.
Top of the pile again was defending champion Valentino Rossi, on the Honda RCV, who beat his own lap record by 1.6 seconds to finish with a best time of 1:35.208.
But it was 250cc World Champion Marco Melandri, on the Yamaha M1, that impressed most, taking the last place on the front row of the provisional grid behind Alex Barros and Loris Capirossi, with a 1:36.161. Melandri crashed at the end of the session but was uninjured and will be back out for second qualifying on Saturday.
Gauloises Yamaha rider Barros was the only man to truly challenge Rossi for the top spot, briefly edging ahead of the Italian with five minutes to go, but he crashed on his next lap and had to watch Rossi chop a further eight tenths of a second off his time.
Max Biaggi, on a Honda RCV, leads the provisional second row, followed by Melandri’s Yamaha team-mate Carlos Checa and the Hondas of Sete Gibernau and Tohru Ukawa
Le Mans is also the first outing for the long-awaited Team KR Proton four-stroke bike. Jeremy McWilliams took the V5 to a provisional 12th place on the grid but Nobuatsu Aoki, who rode the bike for the first time at Turweston airfield, Buckinghamshire, earlier this week, only managed 20th place - over two seconds behind Rossi.
Free practice starts on Saturday at 9am, UK time, followed by a second qualifying session at 1pm and the MotoGP race at 1pm on Sunday.
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