Valentino Rossi has put the Yamaha M1 on pole position for the opening round of the 2004 MotoGP championship at Welkom in South Africa.
Rossi broke his own lap record by just under 0.5 seconds to qualify in front of Sete Gibernau. Loris Capirossi and Max Biaggi qualified in third and fourth, both also dipping under the 2003 lap record.
Kenny Roberts Jnr has qualified in fifth on the new Suzuki GSV-R, with Colin Edwards in sixth.
Brother Kurtis Roberts has flown back to the U.S. after riding the Proton machine in free practice and aggravating injuries from pre-season testing.
Highest placed Brit is Shane Byrne in 17th on the Aprilia, with Neil Hodgson 18 and Jeremy McWilliams in 20th. Troy Bayliss will be disappointed to be splitting the Brits in 19th place on the factory Ducati. The Australian is riding with a 16.5 inch front wheel for the first time in his career, and is also testing a new suspension linkage, so plans to concentrate on finding a reasonable set-up before qualifying tomorrow.
1) Rossi 1:33.353. 2) Gibernau 1:33.378. 3) Capirossi 1:33.709. 4) Biaggi 1:33.730. 5) Roberts Jnr 1:33.841. 6) Edwards 1:33.859. 7) Melandri 1:34.100. 8) Tamada 1:34.177. 9) Hayden 1:34.208. 10) Checa 1:34.540. 11) Hofmann 1:34.616. 12) Barros 1:34.619. 13) Nakano 1:34.661. 14) Hopkins 1:35.112. 15) Abe 1:35.251. 16) Xaus 1:35.417. 17) Byrne 1:35.852. 18) Hodgson 1:36.187. 19) Bayliss 1:36.552. 20) McWilliams 1:36.384. 21) Aoki 1:36.907. 22) Fabrizio 1:38.610.
Discuss the provisional grid on the MotoGP discussion board. Follow the link, right.