Motorcycling: Champion homes in on sweet record

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The Independent Online

The 26-year-old Italian considers the two-and-a-half mile Leicestershire circuit his home from home after being beaten there only once since joining MotoGP in 2000- his bitter rival Max Biaggi was awarded victory in 2003 after Rossi was adjudged to have illegally overtaken under a yellow flag.

Rossi is chasing a fifth successive world title and starts this afternoon's race leading the rankings by 79 points. The British Grand Prix marks the halfway point of the season, but Rossi is bracing himself for the German, Czech Republic and Japanese grands prix.

"I love racing at Donington and everybody knows that. But I don't like Sachsenring; I don't like Brno and I don't like Motegi," said Rossi, who claimed pole position for today's race in qualifying practice yesterday afternoon. "I'll try my best to do well there, of course, but I just don't like those circuits; they don't suit my style.

"The bike I'm riding at Donington has been completely redesigned from the M1 machine of the 2004 season. At the beginning of this year we had a lot of problems with the rear of the bike and as soon as we fixed that, we discovered a new problem at the front of the bike.

"Fixing that second problem has been the biggest single improvement we've made so far this season and we really understand the setting on the bike now."

The Gauloises Yamaha rider set a fastest-lap time of 1min 27.897sec during qualifying yesterday to break the fastest lap record, which he set in 2004, by 0.823sec.

The Movistar Honda rider Sete Gibernau qualified second, while Marco Melandri will complete the front row.

Shane Byrne was home in 18th on the Team Roberts Proton KR, while fellow Briton James Ellison, of Blata WCM, qualified 20th.