Rossi takes pole position on Yamaha

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Italian Valentino Rossi will start his first grand prix for Yamaha from pole position after another stunning qualifying performance in South Africa.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:04 IST
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Italian Valentino Rossi will start his first grand prix for Yamaha from pole position after another stunning qualifying performance in South Africa on Saturday. The three-time MotoGP world champion set the pace for the second session to defy his pre-season prediction that he would struggle at Welkom. Italy's five-time world motorcycling champion Valentino Rossi repaid the faith of his new Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha team on Saturday by taking pole position in the final qualifying for the South Africa Grand Prix. Sensational performance Valentino Rossi defied the critics, the pessimists and the record books with a sensational performance under the South African sunshine at the Phakisa Freeway. He emerged triumphant from an incredible final qualifying session which saw Shinya Nakano, Max Biaggi, Sete Gibernau and Nicky Hayden all move into provisional pole in the final ten minutes. Rossi regained control with three minutes left on the clock and set the pace at one minute, 32.647 seconds before returning to his box to watch Marco Melandri, Colin Edwards, Loris Capirossi and Gibernau produce potential pole laps which all faltered in the final sections. Gibernau in second place Gibernau's last lap effort wasn't enough for pole but it did move him up to second place on the grid just 0.035-of-a-second behind Rossi, as he chases a repeat of his famous victory at this circuit last season. Camel Honda's Max Biaggi completes the front trio. American Nicky Hayden in the Repsol Honda team finished fourth on the second row ahead of compatriot and Gibernau's team-mate Colin Edwards. Nakano shines for Kawasaki Japanese rider Shinya Nakano, who has so far enjoyed an outstanding debut with Kawasaki, provided them with their highest-ever MotoGP grid position of sixth. But when the red light goes out on Sunday all eyes will be on the diminutive Italian who's vying to become the first rider to start from the front of the grid on a Yamaha machine since November 2002 - a feat even he didn't think possible. "We start at the same point as the end of last year and I'm very very happy. We made a great job. We tried over the winter for this challenge but I have great confidence for the new adventure and now we are in front of everybody," said Rossi. New pole record Pre-season favourite Randy De Puniet stamped his authority in the 250cc class with a new pole record of one minute, 35.300 seconds and a first place for the seventh time in his career. Sebastian Porto was his closest rival, lapping within 0.079 seconds of his Aprilia factory colleague and briefly sitting on provisional pole position. The Argentinian will head the chase again tomorrow, when Manuel Poggiali and Dani Pedrosa, reigning world champions in the 250cc and 125cc classes respectively, also starting from the front row. Andrea Dovizioso claimed the upper hand in the final qualifying session for the 125c.c. race, taking pole position in a time of one minute, 40.942 seconds. It was the second pole of the Italian teenager's fledgling career and confirmed his title potential amongst an intensely competitive field including former world champion Roberto Locatelli, who had dominated proceedings up until this afternoon. Locatelli had been comfortably the fastest rider in the previous three sessions but could do nothing to stop Dovizioso, despite lapping within 0.082 seconds of his compatriot. Mirko Giansanti made it three Italians in the top three positions with a surprise late lap. (AP)