Loris Capirossi rode the fastest-ever lap of Estoril in this afternoon's final qualifying session to secure pole position for tomorrow's Portuguese GP - his third pole for Ducati in their sensational debut MotoGP season, and a 'present' to his Bologna based outfit.

"I'm very happy," grinned Capirossi, whose pole time was 1.38secs inside last year's record, set by Carlos Checa. "We've done a great job here over the past two days, and this pole position is like a present for everyone in the team.

"The bike was perfect this afternoon," he added. "This morning I was joking with (Sete) Gibernau that I'd do a 1min 38.5, but I went even faster than that, which is great. The race will be very difficult but after today I'm confident that I can be part of the fight for victory."

It was the Italian's third pole of the year, having previously qualified fastest for May's Spanish GP and June's Dutch TT - as well as taking Ducati's first MotoGP victory at Catalunya in June.

The achievement highlights recent detail improvements to the team's awesomely fast Desmosedici racer, including a new Ohlins front fork, a new chassis and new bodywork which improve the bike's rideability.

"We are always improving our motorcycles," said Ducati Corse CEO Claudio Domenicali. "These latest upgrades are not huge improvements, but Ducati's philosophy is always this - that many tiny steps forward give you a big step forward.

"We already knew that the basic concept of the Desmosedici is good, so now we are building on that concept, using our racing experience to keep moving forward," he added. "And we like to stay loyal to what we know - like our desmodromic engine and trellis chassis - which is why we don't experiment with totally new technology all the time. We prefer steady improvements.

"Tomorrow's race will be difficult. Maybe we didn't have the fastest overall pace this afternoon but we made some tiny improvements to our set-up today and maybe we can make some more for the race," the Italian concluded.

Meanwhile, Troy Bayliss wasn't able to replicate the headline grabbing efforts of his team-mate, but was happy enough with eighth on the grid for his first race at Estoril.

The Australian continued to make progress with set-up throughout today and completed all of this morning's session with the same Michelin rear, making him confident that he's got a good tyre choice for tomorrow's race.

"I've not got a lot of experience here - we only got one dry day of testing here pre-season - so I'm happy with eighth, it's about normal," said Bayliss, who rode his best MotoGP race so far at Brno three weeks ago. "We made some progress on a few things today, especially fixing some instability we'd been having on the brakes, and I've got a few more ideas for tomorrow. But like every GP it's during the race that we really learn stuff, which will hopefully pay off next year. The plan is to make some more progress in morning warm-up, then get a good start in the race."

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