Rossi grabs provisional pole for Portuguese GP

Valentino Rossi snatched the provisional pole position from championship rival Sete Gibernau in the last minutes of Friday qualifying for Sunday's Portuguese GP at Estoril. The duo were separated by just three hundredths of a second, at 1:38.036...

Valentino Rossi snatched the provisional pole position from championship rival Sete Gibernau in the last minutes of Friday qualifying for Sunday's Portuguese GP at Estoril. The duo were separated by just three hundredths of a second, at 1:38.036 and 1:38.067, respectively.

With the Repsol-HRC tent missing one of its members, Nicky Hayden, due to injury, Brazilian Alex Barros was left to fly the HRC flag. Barros qualified third, lapping two tenths slower than the leading two.

Leading the provisional second row is Camel-Honda rider Makoto Tamada. The Bridgestone-shod Japanese, qualified well within the pace, just a tenth behind Barros. Tamada's teammate and championship contender, Max Biaggi, was not able to take advantage of the new HRC-bits provided to him at Brno, and was only able to muster a 1:38.609. With four Hondas on Rossi tail, his good friend, Marco Melandri, came to the rescue. The young Italian placed his Yamaha M1 in sixth position, just a tenth behind Biaggi.

American Colin Edwards was the first of the Yankees. Even though Edwards does not have the latest HRC-spec exhaust/engine configuration, he was still able to qualify seventh fastest and only two hundredths of a second behind the Yamaha. Next to Edwards is another American, this one on the Suzuki livery. The younger rider of team Suzuki, John Hopkins, placed his Suzuki V4 in eighth place; just a tenth behind Edwards. Rounding up the third row is a Loris Capirossi aboard the Marlboro Ducati and outside the 38 second range with a time of 1:39.071.

Hayden decided, or was forced to decide, to skip Portugal and concentrate on his recovery. According to reports, Dr. Costa gave him the go-ahead for Portugal. However, he warned that another injury to his collarbone at this stage of recovery would put the young GP star out for the season. Understandably not wanting to risk the remaining five races (not counting Portugal), Hayden opted to out of Sunday's GP.

With the 2004 season on its final stretch, the silly season is in full swing. The loudest rumor is that Gibernau is going to Ducati. At yesterday's pre-event press conference, the Spaniard was asked about said move and he said that while he has spoken with Ducati representatives, he's happy were he is now. The Spaniard also mentioned his contract with Telefonica-MovieStar does not expire until 2005. However, his contract is not with Honda. This means that in theory, he could take his sponsorship over to Ducati. Another rumor flying around the MotoGP paddock is a move from Honda to Yamaha for Edwards. This one however, has not been confirmed, nor denied.

In other news, Team KR tested a KTM V4 four-stroke engine last Saturday at Brno. It was a secret test and there were not lap times given to the media, however, rumors are that KR's V5 may be dropped sooner rather than later in favor of the V4.

Weather forecast for thunderstorms tomorrow and thunderstorms Sunday afternoon. Let's pray for a dry race on Sunday. Stay tuned for more.

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Series MotoGP
Drivers Nicky Hayden , Max Biaggi , Loris Capirossi , Valentino Rossi , Colin Edwards , Alex Barros , Sete Gibernau , John Hopkins , Makoto Tamada , Marco Melandri