Motorcycling: Provisional pole for Tamada as Rossi feels the heat

Makoto Tamada, of Japan, took provisional pole position for tomorrow's Malaysian Grand Prix after lapping inside the track record in yesterday's first qualifying session.

The MotoGP championship leader, Valentino Rossi, under pressure from his Honda rival Sete Gibernau after crashing in Qatar last weekend, was 0.306sec slower in third place for Yamaha. Gibernau, 14 points behind Rossi with 75 points to be won from the season's last three races, was second.

Several riders ran into the gravel trap at the start of the session as light rain fell, but the pace soon hotted up with Honda's Tamada lapping in 2:02.394. That time compared to Rossi's 2003 pole of 2:02.480. The Italian went on to clinch his third straight championship for Honda in Malaysia last year before switching to Yamaha.

"This is a really good start for us because we had some problems with Bridgestone [tyres] here in winter testing but they have shown how far they have come," said Tamada. "I had a difficult time in Qatar last weekend but I have set a good lap time today and I hope to be at the top for the rest of the sessions."

The Argentinian Sebastian Porto set the pace in the 250cc class after winning in Qatar while the championship leader, Dani Pedrosa of Spain, was second and 0.704sec slower. Pedrosa, 19, can become the youngest 250cc champion if he beats Porto by at least eight points. Randy de Puniet, of France, still mathematically in with a chance, was sixth fastest.

In the 125cc category, the Italian teenager Andrea Dovizioso moved closer to the title with provisional pole. He just needs a top-three finish.

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