Rossi Takes Provisional Pole in Portugal

Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi made a successful start to the Portuguese Grand Prix today by taking provisional pole on day one in Estoril. His team-mate Carlos Checa finished the afternoon 11th fastest, spending much of the session in the top five. After yesterday's downpours, the weather stayed dry with patches of sunshine, making for a fast qualifying session with eight riders posting times under 1'39s, four of these bettering last year's pole position time.

Rossi went to the top of the time sheets just over ten minutes into the hour-long session, whilst Checa moved into second shortly after with a time of 1'39.163. With fifteen minutes remaining Sete Gibernau (Honda) went ahead of Rossi, surrendering the lead to Alex Barros (Honda) half a minute later. Gibernau then stole the top spot back again with his fastest lap of the day of 1'38.067.

This was only good enough for second, however, as Rossi then put in a flying lap of 1'38.036 with just over a minute remaining. Barros finished third fastest with a time of 1'38.215, followed by Honda riders Makoto Tamada (1'38.342), Max Biaggi (1'38.609) and Yamaha rider Marco Melandri (1'38.710). Checa was unable to better his earlier time as he touched tyres with Gibernau on his flying lap and could not pass him.

VALENTINO ROSSI (1st, 1'38.036)

"We are ahead now but there is still more work to do, although we did some really good work today and finished first. It's difficult to set up here because it's an old style track; very tight and full of bumps. For sure it will be tough here, especially against Gibernau and Barros who are looking strong. We have found the right tyre today and this was very important. It's going to be a hard race."

CARLOS CHECA (11th, 1'39.163)

"Everything is working well so far, but there's room for improvement. We're losing time on a few parts of the track but the bike feels quite good. I touched tyres with Gibernau on my last lap when I had qualifying tyres on and couldn't pass him. This meant I missed my chance to improve my last lap time. I hope the weather stays okay tomorrow. At the Brno test we changed the balance of the bike slightly and it feels more comfortable, so I am confident for the weekend."

JEREMY BURGESS, ROSSI'S CREW CHIEF

"It was imperative for us to get on the front row, and that's what we did. In Brno we had limited dry track time during the race weekend, but in the test there on Monday we had some time to test Michelin tyres and the ones we selected were ready for here. Our priority here today was front row, especially because it might rain tomorrow."

-gfyt-