Chili sets pace as Toseland promises improvement

Pierfrancesco Chili, at 39 the oldest rider in the series, maintained his challenge for the World Superbike Championship when he dominated provisional qualifying for the British round at Silverstone yesterday.

Pierfrancesco Chili, at 39 the oldest rider in the series, maintained his challenge for the World Superbike Championship when he dominated provisional qualifying for the British round at Silverstone yesterday.

The Italian hurled his privately owned Ducati round the circuit in 1m 55.043sec - more than a third of a second faster than the Australian Chris Vermeulen, who finished second on a Honda Fireblade built by the Dutch Ten Kate team.

Chili holds third place in the championship behind the factory Fila Ducatis of Regis Laconi and James Toseland, who had mixed fortunes yesterday. Laconi finished third fastest, 0.372 seconds behind Chili, but Toseland trailed in seventh place, nearly a second down.

The 23-year-old British rider, who leads the series by two points from Laconi, promised to improve his performance in today's Superpole session which will determine the grid placings for Sunday's two 20-lap races.

"Everything's going fine," he said. "I used race tyres, not a qualifier. We've got a few tweaks to do to the bike, and the rest will come from me." The Japanese rider Noriyuki Haga gave Britain's Renegade Ducati team a provisional front-row start with fourth place, but his partner Leon Haslam hopes to better his 1:56.435 lap, which gave him 13th place.

"I'm not too worried because I used a race tyre today, and a lot of other riders went out on qualifiers," Haslam said. "I think I can get into the 1m 54s bracket in Superpole." Troy Corser finished 10th on his Foggy-Petronas FP1, and his team-mate Chris Walker was 14th.

WORLD SUPERBIKE CHAMPIONSHIP Seventh round (Silverstone) Leading positions (after first qualifying): 1 P Chili (It) Ducati 1min 55.043sec; 2 C Vermeulen (Aus) Honda 1:55.408; 3 R Laconi (Fr) Ducati 1:55.415; 4 N Haga (Japan) Ducati 1:55.522; 5 G Nannelli (It) 1:55.932; 6 M Borciani (It) Ducati 1:55.977; 7 J Toseland (GB) Ducati 1:55.984; 8 G McCoy (Aus) Ducati 1:55.987; 9 L Pedercini (It) Ducati 1:56.169; 10 T Corser (Aus) Petronas 1:56.279; 11 S Martin (Aus) Ducati 1:56.354; 12 I Clementi (It) Kawasaki 1:56.413; 13 L Haslam (GB) Ducati 1:56.435; 14 C Walker (GB) Petronas 1:56.621; 15 J Ellison (GB) Yamaha 1:56.701.

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