Valentino Rossi topped this morning's first free practice session for the Rio Grand Prix, the Italian heading an all-Honda top three in preparation for this afternoon's first qualifying session.

Rossi, who clinched his second premier class title in Rio one year ago, led the majority of the hour long session, before being eclipsed by Biaggi and Gibernau with ten minutes to go.

However, the Repsol rider fought back with his very last lap to take a considerable 0.5secs advantage over nearest rival Gibernau - while Sete, Biaggi and fourth fastest Loris Capirossi were separated by just a few hundredths.

However, there is likely to be considerable improvement over those times this afternoon since Rossi's fastest lap was some 0.5secs slower than Biaggi's 2002 pole time, set on a Marlboro Yamaha.

Behind the top four, Shinya Nakano proved the electric shock treatment on his injured shoulder has worked, as he held his D'Antin run M1 steady over the Rio bumps to claim fifth fastest in the opening showing, ahead of Ukawa, Checa, Jacque, Tamada and injured home hero Alex Barros.

Despite running inside the top ten early on, Kenny Roberts would slip down the order to sixteenth at the flag, leaving John Hopkins top Suzuki in eleventh.

Edwards led the Aprilia challenge in fourteenth, one place ahead of Haga, while McCoy was top Kawasaki - beating both Proton V5s of Nobuatsu Aoki and Jeremy McWilliams. The WCMs of David de Gea and Chris Burns rounded out the field, although de Gea was just 0.3secs slower than Ryuichi Kiyonari's Honda.

Free practice:

1. Rossi
2. Gibernau
3. Biaggi
4. Capirossi
5. Nakano
6. Ukawa
7. Checa
8. Jacque
9. Tamada
10. Barros
11. Hopkins
12. Melandri
13. Bayliss
14. Edwards
15. Hayden
16. Roberts
17. Haga
18. McCoy
19. Aoki
20. McWilliams
21. Pitt
22. Kiyonari
23. de Gea
24. Burns

 

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