Frenchman Olivier Jacque caught the field napping in the final few minutes of first qualifying for the Portuguese GP, when he pounced onto the provisional front row with an excellent second.

The former 250 World Champion set his flyer on his very final lap, with only defending World Champion Valentino Rossi able to hold back his charge, by 0.289 seconds.

Confident the result came from the hard work put in by his team and the progress made to the M1's overall package during the recent Brno test, Jacque is now looking forward to securing a front row start for Sunday's main event.

"After the excellent tests we did at Brno, the Monday after the Czech GP, I knew we would be more competitive here - I just didn't quite know by how much!" he beamed. "Given our expectations, this morning was very frustrating as a couple of little technical problems held us back. Then this afternoon we made a couple of changes and everything came together.

"It proves that if you get the set-up just right on the Yamaha you can go fast on it," he added.

"When Olivier went out for his last run I knew he was going to finish on the provisional front row. Now we all need to calm down, a little, and concentrate on setting the bike up for the race on Sunday," warned Guy Coulon, Jacque's Race Engineer.

But while Jacque was troubling the likes of Rossi and Biaggi, his team-mate Alex Barros was unusually struggling to get anywhere near the Frenchman's pace, and would finish the session 16th.

"We have a big problem with the balance of the bike and we can't seem to find a solution," confessed the Brazilian. "We tried the geometry we used a Brno and the one that we used here during the IRTA tests but nothing seemed to work."

However, despite Barros' problems, OJ's ride had given the Gauloises team a real lift - as team manager Herve Poncharal testified:

"An excellent surprise!" he said. "Even if it is only Friday, it is becoming clear that the Monday session at Brno was very important and bought us the biggest technical improvement since the start of the season. That improvement appears to have set off a sort of chain reaction that has bought out the best in Olivier and his team. I hope it gives Alex a boost. He was fastest here during the IRTA test and was a long way from that performance today. Clearly his right shoulder is still causing him problems."

 

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