Motorcycling: Dazzling Doohan shows that he is still poles apart

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The Independent Online
MICHAEL DOOHAN, the four times world champion, secured pole position for today's Dutch 500cc Grand Prix with a controlled effort in the closing seconds of final practice yesterday.

The Australian has won this event each of the last four years and will start with the fastest ever pole time registered on the circuit. Doohan recorded 2min 02.092sec with just five seconds remaining to establish the 55th pole position of his career.

However, Doohan, riding a Honda, faced tough opposition from New Zealand's Simon Crafar, who was seeking his first pole. After 45 minutes of practice, both riders had clocked 2min 02.850sec. But with five minutes left, Crafar, riding a Yamaha, took the lead with 2min 02.491sec. Doohan's chances of regaining the lead looked bleak when the session was stopped with just over two minutes to go due to a fire in the pit lane.

After a few tense minutes, practice resumed with only enough time for two more laps - one from a standing start. Doohan roared away to record the fastest time ever, eclipsing the 2min 02.262sec set by his team-mate, Alex Criville, in 1996.

"It was good to get a clean lap at the end there. I knew I could improve on my time if I was by myself," Doohan said.

"It's good to have that starting position, but the important thing is also to have been constantly fast out there."

The championship leader Criville, who crashed badly on this track last year, was ninth fastest in 2min 03.469sec and will start from third line on the grid.

Japan's Norick Abe, riding a Yamaha, was third in 2min 02.601sec, having cleverly taken advantage of Doohan's slipstream in the final lap.

Criville leads the championship with 103 points, ahead of the Italian Max Biaggi with 98. Doohan is fourth on 90 points.