Ant West South Africa GP qualifying report

Teenage Australian Ant West has qualified 19th for his 500cc motorcycle world championship debut in the South African Grand Prix at Welkom on Sunday. The 19-year-old clocked a quickest qualifying lap time of 1-min 38.287-secs around the 4.2km ...

Teenage Australian Ant West has qualified 19th for his 500cc motorcycle world championship debut in the South African Grand Prix at Welkom on Sunday.

The 19-year-old clocked a quickest qualifying lap time of 1-min 38.287-secs around the 4.2km circuit south-west of Johannesburg on a Dee Cee Racing Honda V-Twin. He set the time in the second and final qualifying session on Saturday. His quickest lap was 3.658-secs behind the pole position-winning Nastro Azzuro Honda of Italian Valentino Rossi, who recorded 1-min 34.629-secs.

West rode a total of 89 laps in the two practice and two qualifying sessions on Friday and Saturday. He improved his best lap time by 3.230-secs over the four sessions.

The Gold Coast rider is making his 500cc debut at Welkom after racing Hondas in the 250cc world championship the past two years. He finished sixth in the 250cc championship in 2000 with top 10 finishes in 15 of the 16 rounds and best results of fourth at Assen in the Netherlands and at Estoril in Portugal.

West completed negotiations to ride the Honda V-Twin only last week and goes into the race at Welkom with no off-season testing. He finished fifth in the 250cc grand prix at Welkom in 2000.

ANT WEST QUOTES: "The last time I rode a racing bike was at Phillip Island for last year's Australian Grand Prix. Since then only motocross bikes -- so I'm still getting into a rhythm, and there are places I feel I'm not riding properly. It's great to be back, and I'm hoping I'll be on the Dee Cee 500 for the rest of the season. I've never ridden a 500 before, but the V-Twin Honda feels just like a big 250. In fact it's better for me than a 250 because it's a bit bigger and I can fit on it more comfortably. All through qualifying I've been working on getting back in the groove. My aim for tomorrow's race is just to try and keep with the other V-Twins, and try and beat some of them, but they've had more testing than me."

<pre> FINAL QUALIFYING TIMES (grid positions): POS RIDER MOTORCYCLE LAP TIME 1. Valentino Rossi (Italy) Nastro Azzuro Honda 1:34.629 2. Loris Capirossi (Italy) West Pons-Honda 1:34.872 3. Shinya Nakano (Japan) Gauloises Yamaha 1:35.216 4. Garry McCoy (Australia) Red Bull Yamaha 1:35.434 5. Kenny Roberts (U.S.) Telefonica MoviStar Suzuki 1:35.476 6. Tohru Ukawa (Japan) Repsol YPF Honda 1:35.537 7. Norifume Abe (Japan) Antena 3 D'Antin Yamaha 1:35.692 8. Max Biaggi (Italy) Marlboro Yamaha 1:35.921 9. Alex Criville (Spain) Repsol YPF Honda 1:36.125 10. Noriyuki Haga (Japan) Red Bull Yamaha 1:36.125

OTHER: 19. Ant West (Australia) Dee Cee Jeans Honda 1:38.287

-Mike Porter

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Series MotoGP
Drivers Max Biaggi , Garry McCoy , Loris Capirossi , Valentino Rossi , Alex Criville , Tohru Ukawa , Shinya Nakano , Kenny Roberts , Noriyuki Haga