Gibernau shatters lap record to take pole and put Rossi in shade

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The Independent Online

The Moto Gp world championship leader, Sete Gibernau, reinforced his title credentials by claiming provisional pole position yesterday for the Italian Grand Prix, while shattering the Mugello lap record in the process.

The Moto Gp world championship leader, Sete Gibernau, reinforced his title credentials by claiming provisional pole position yesterday for the Italian Grand Prix, while shattering the Mugello lap record in the process.

The Spaniard, who won last time out at Le Mans, was the class of the field yesterday as he easily put the reigning world champion, Valentino Rossi, in the shade.

Gibernau's best lap of 1 minute 49.553 seconds on his factory-backed Honda was 0.408sec faster than Rossi, his nearest challenger, and three seconds faster than the Japanese rider Tohru Ukawa's lap record from 2002.

Rossi, riding a Yamaha, was the only man to get within a second of the Gibernau. Rossi was 0.816sec ahead of bitter rival and fellow Italian Max Biaggi in third place, who is second in the championship on a Honda.

The Mugello track seemed to suit the Yamaha contingent with Rossi's colleagues Marco Melandri and Carlos Checa claiming fourth and fifth respectively.

Burnley's Neil Hodgson was the top Briton yesterday, piloting his Ducati to the 17th fastest time, almost four seconds off Gibernau's record pace despite suffering from broken ribs.

The Northern Ireland veteran, Jeremy McWilliams, was 18th with Aprilia team-mate Shane Byrne, from London, a place further back as he recovers from a broken hand.

Another Briton suffering injury, Chris Burns, has yet to qualify for Sunday's race.

The Newcastle-born rider, who has a broken thumb, was more than eight seconds slower than Gibernau, falling outside the 107 per cent requirement on his Harris WCM.

Gibernau was pleased to steal the limelight from MotoGP's raft of Italian stars, for whom this weekend is the highlight of the season.

He said: "It's never easy coming to Mugello with so many great Italian riders but that's a very good start to the weekend. But we all know it is only the start and the likes of Rossi, Biaggi, Melandri and [Loris] Capirossi will fight all the way."

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