Motorcycling: Capirossi looks for hat-trick

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The Independent Online

The 32-year-old Italian will start from pole position for the third week in a row on his Marlboro Ducati on the 3.34-mile Losail circuit in Qatar. He has won the last two rounds in Malaysia and Japan on the 990cc V4, aided by a remarkable comeback by the Bridgestone tyre company.

Capirossi's qualifying time of 1min 56.917secs took more than two seconds from last year's pole record, set by his current team-mate Carlos Checa. "We tested a lot of tyres and found the best solution for the front one, but for the race it will be very difficult," Capirossi said.

"Twenty-one laps in these hot conditions will be tough for everybody," he added, "but I'm very happy with this pole position, because it's not easy to overtake at this track."

Ducati switched to Bridgestone from Michelin this year, but the combination appeared to flounder in the face of opposition from Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki and Kawasaki. Ducati have always been able to match the Japanese factories in engine power, but have not always found the right grip in the corners.

Now, just as Valentino Rossi has clinched his seventh world championship, the Ducatis - flame-red in Italy's traditional racing colour - have reignited the season with four races remaining. Capirossi is only 17 points behind Repsol Honda's Max Biaggi in the battle for second place in the championship.

Telefonica Honda's Sete Gibernau and Rossi, on the Gauloises Yamaha, complete the front row for today's race. Shane Byrne, called into the Camel Honda squad for two races, qualified in 17th place, just ahead of fellow Briton James Ellison on the Blata.

Another Italian team, MV Agusta, was the last European manufacturer to win three consecutive MotoGP races, in 1972, before Japanese bikes began their domination.