Series leader claims pole

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The Independent Online
The reigning world champion, Mick Doohan, of Australia, claimed the 34th pole position of his 500cc motorcycle career yesterday with a commanding performance in qualifying at Donington Park for today's British Grand Prix.

The 31-year-old series leader, who rides a Repsol Honda, was pushed out of the leading spot by the Italian Loris Capirossi on a Yamaha in the opening minutes of qualifying but responded in perfect fashion halfway through the hour-long session to set a record lap.

Doohan's time of 1min 32.426secs (97.37mph) bettered the 500cc mark set in 1991 by Kevin Schwantz at 1:33.596. It was also faster than the outright racing record of 1:33.47 set in April this year by Troy Corser on a Ducati Superbike.

Capirossi's time of 1:32.584 was enough to secure second spot, with the American Kenny Roberts Jnr on the Yahama in third position on 1:32.794 and the Brazilian Alex Barros in fourth on his Honda in 1:33.224.

The result is a boost to Doohan's chances of claiming his third title this season with his nearest championship rival, his team-mate the Spaniard Alex Criville, down in seventh place.

But despite his success at Donington yesterday, Doohan remains sceptical about the suitability of the circuit for 500cc racing. His chief bugbear is the corrugated kerbs around the track, put down to let racing car drivers know when they are close to the edge of the circuit. "I don't like those cobblestones, those paving bricks," he said. "Just when you think you are dropping off to sleep they really wake you up. If you get the front wheel on to them it just wants to fold up, and they also generate a lot of wheelspin, which is not fun. You have to leave an extra 10 inches to avoid them."

Doohan also dislikes the Melbourne loop section of the track, added to increase the course length. "I call it the car park section," he said. "After the nice, flowing stuff it is like you are applying for your driving licence."

The top British qualifier was Terry Rymer in 15th place, with a time of 1:34.264, on the Lucky Strike Suzuki that he is riding in place of the injured Daryl Beattie.

Rymer, who caused a sensation when he finished sixth on his grand prix debut at Donington in 1992, will be wanting to make the most of his opportunity and had been speaking before practice of aiming for a podium finish. He got his chance with the top Lucky Strike team when Beattie crashed during practice for the French Grand Prix last month and suffered a broken left wrist and hairline fracture of the skull.

Another British rider, Jeremy McWilliams, qualified right behind Rymer in 16th on his Yamaha, but it was not all good news for the home guard. During the hour long session, Sean Emmett's Harris Yamaha crashed heavily on the approach to Redgate Corner. The bike bounced across a gravel bed and jumped high on to a safety fence.

The safety barrier halted the bike's flight, and it dropped into a spectator area. One spectator was apparently hit by debris and was treated at the circuit medical centre, requiring one stitch in a minor head wound. Emmett escaped without injury.

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