Valentino Rossi snatched a late provisional pole position for Sunday's Portuguese Grand Prix, having waited almost until the completion of the hour before showing his hand.

Rossi was fastest in the morning's free practice, but it was Sete Gibernau who showed the early initiative this afternoon. Sete posted a sub 1min 40secs time within seven minutes of the session starting and held the lead until two minutes from the end when fellow Honda RC211V riding Max Biaggi headed the leader board.

Rossi, then lying in sixth place, ignored the windy conditions and responded with two lightening fast laps that saw him head the pack and take the all important provisional pole position.

"It was good at the end!" smiled Rossi, with reference to his late charge. "We made a good lap time but we still have much work to do for the prefect set-up. We need to pay attention to the rear of the machine. I have a good feeling from the tyres but I need a little bit more grip and think we can make the difference by working on the rear shock.

"I also have a little trouble with chatter from the front of the bike. We have a lot of data from today and we work hard this evening and tomorrow for the second session and for the best set-up for the race on Sunday," he added.

The provisional front row reads Rossi, Olivier Jacque, Biaggi and Tohru Ukawa.

Meanwhile, Rossi's team-mate Nicky Hayden spent morning practice learning the circuit and finished the session a creditable 11th place, having been fastest of all down the 780m main straight at 318.7kp/h - but was quick to admit that he hadn't made the turn at the end of the main straight as he became accustomed to his braking markers!

Nevertheless, with 28 laps under his belt the 22-year-old set to business in this afternoon's qualifying session, finding 0.7secs in the dying minutes to finish the day ninth, 1,118secs off Rossi.

"This track's a bit different! Real odd in places - even got a kinda' backwards cork-screw," said Nicky, comparing the famous corkscrew turn at Laguna Seca to some of the Estoril twists. "Had an OK day really. Really been tryin' to find my reference points at this new track - this morning I over shot at the end of the main straight and ran out onto the gravel!

"Tried to get into a good rhythm this afternoon. I rode around and kinda' got a little frustrated then settled down and seemed to get into some kinda' flow. I've definitely got some areas I need to work on and try and relax a little bit more. It came a little better at the end of the session but I've definitely gotta' get more consistent," he admitted.



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