Roberts puts down early marker

Kenny Roberts took provisional pole position for tomorrow's Portuguese 500cc Grand Prix when he clocked 1min 41.809sec on his Suzuki around the 4.19 km Estoril circuit, with Australia's Garry McCoy second fastest in 1:42.013 on his Yamaha.

Kenny Roberts took provisional pole position for tomorrow's Portuguese 500cc Grand Prix when he clocked 1min 41.809sec on his Suzuki around the 4.19 km Estoril circuit, with Australia's Garry McCoy second fastest in 1:42.013 on his Yamaha.

The American, who is leading the world championship and is going for his fourth victory of the season, snatched top place of the provisional grid yesterday from Regis Laconi, who also rides a Yamaha, on his penultimate lap, while McCoy also edged out the Frenchman right at the end of the session.

Behind Laconi was Yamaha's Norick Abe, of Japan, while Honda's Tadayuki Okada was fifth. Final qualifying will be held today.

Roberts had sent an early warning to his rivals that he meant business by recording the fastest time in morning unofficial practice. But such is the intensity of the competition in this year's championship that less than a second separated the first 13 riders in the morning around the former Formula One track that is hosting grand prix motorcycling for the first time.

Italy's Max Biaggi, who appeared to have ended a poor run of form with an emphatic victory in the Czech Grand Prix two weeks ago, managed only a lowly 10th place in official practice. He escaped unhurt after falling from his Yamaha late in the session.

In Assen, Troy Corser ended the first day of qualifying for the 11th round of the World Superbike Championship yesterday in second place, just behind Noriyuki Haga, the Japanese Yamaha rider.

Conditions were variable, with rain in the morning but a dry track for the afternoon timed qualifying session. Corser's Aprilia team had prepared his RSV1000 for a wet session, but then quickly had to modify the Australian's bike for the unexpected dry conditions in the afternoon session.

"All in all, I think we were lucky to get a dry session in the afternoon," Corser said. "Unfortunately the bike was set up for the wet and we had to change to the suspension settings quickly and then see how it all behaved.

"In the morning, I used full wet Dunlop tyres for the first time. When I won in the wet in Australia I wasn't on full wets, so it was good to try them and they felt OK. It was good to get a chance in practice, instead of using them for the first time in a race!"

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