Barros smashes pole record at sunny Estoril

Alex Barros continued his dominance of the Grande Premio de Portugal on Saturday with the fastest times in the final free practice session and in afternoon qualifying, when he smashed the pole position record by 0.731 seconds. Barros, who was also fastest in both practice sessions yesterday, held off a strong challenge for pole from Honda colleague Sete Gibernau and Ducati's Carlos Checa, who sealed his first front row start for the Italian factory in third place behind his Spanish compatriot.

"I'm really, really happy," commented Barros. "We've been working all weekend to find a good base setting for the machine. We tried some new Michelin tyres this morning and I was confused about what race tyre to choose, but we spent a lot of this afternoon's session working on it and now everything is clear. At the end I put a qualifying tyre on and I was surprised by the lap time."

After leading the way in the closing stages of the session, Checa was knocked down to the second row by Valentino Rossi before a last lap charge that took him back above the reigning World Champion at the chequered flag. Rossi now heads an all-Italian second row from Marco Melandri, who made a brave challenge for pole after crashing his number one Honda just eleven minutes from the end of the session, and Checa's Ducati team-mate Loris Capirossi.

Colin Edwards was one of the riders to lose out in the late flurry for times, a mistake in the first turn of his fastest lap costing him valuable tenths and relegating him to seventh place on the Yamaha. Edwards is joined on the third row by Max Biaggi and his factory Honda team-mate Nicky Hayden, who had preceded Melandri into the gravel trap just as the pace increased in the final quarter of the session.

John Hopkins also crashed out whilst putting together a lap that looked certain to put him on the front row, the Suzuki rider eventually qualifying eleventh fastest behind Kawasaki's Shinya Nakano, whilst Makoto Tamada spent the majority of the session nursing his wrist after crashing his Honda early in the session. Fortunately for the Japanese rider his lap time on the third of his four laps was enough for the final position on tomorrow's starting grid.

Randy de Puniet bounced back from his crash in the opening round of the season at Jerez six days ago to take pole position for the 250cc race. The Frenchman and his Aprilia team-mate Sebastián Porto looked impressive throughout this afternoon's session and look certain to provide a stern challenge Honda's Dani Pedrosa, with Porto second fastest ahead of the World Champion today. Andrea Dovizioso completes the front row of the grid in just his second quarter-litre Grand Prix for Honda.

Mika Kallio continued his domination of the 125cc class this weekend with a new pole record on the KTM. Kallio had already dipped under the previous record with his provisional pole time on Friday and today clocked held off the challenge of Honda rival Thomas Luthi. Series leader Maro Simoncelli was third fastest whilst fellow Aprilia rider Hector Faubel secured his first-ever front row start in fourth place.

Source: Dorna Communications

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