Sebastian Porto finally kick-started his 2003 season today at the Sachsenring, defeating fellow Honda rider Roberto Rolfo to take 250cc pole position for tomorrow's German Grand Prix, while top Aprilia was the privateer machine of Franco Battaini.

Yesterday, LCR Aprilia rider Randy de Puniet showed signs of a return to form, lapping 0.312 seconds quicker than his nearest challenger to take a comfortable provisional pole.

Rolfo was the first of two Hondas on the front row, qualifying second fastest as factory colleague Sebastian Porto took an encouraging fourth. Battaini levelled out the balance for Aprilia, who are looking for their thirteenth consecutive win in the quarter-litre class, with the third fastest time.

Championship leader Manuel Poggiali provisionally heads the second row after qualifying fifth fastest ahead of Sylvain Guintoli, Naoki Matsudo and Fonsi Nieto.

De Puniet's mark stood for the first 15-minutes this afternoon, before Nieto took the initiate - leaving the Frenchman under increasing pressure from the closing Battaini and Porto.

Meanwhile, Rolfo was also building serious speed and just over 10-minutes to go the likeable Fortuna Honda rider slipped ahead of Nieto's factory Aprilia, for pole, by 0.07secs.

Rolfo - who missed out on victory last year after the race was stopped, and results taken a lap previously, due to rain - held firm, despite the efforts of Battaini and Nieto, but could ultimately do nothing about fellow Honda rider Porto, who saved his best for last and grabbed his first pole of the year by 0.163secs.

Donington winner Nieto was forced to settle for fourth, with Championship leader sixth - three places ahead of rival Elias. Assen winner West was tenth.

Full times to follow...

1. Porto
2. Rolfo
3. Battaini
4. Nieto
5. de Puniet
6. Poggiali
7. Matsudo
8. Guintoli