Rain at Jerez shook up much of this morning's final free practice for the Spanish Grand Prix, allowing the likes of Ducati's Troy Bayliss to return to the sharp end of the field - but all were again left trailing Valentino Rossi.

Bayliss set the pace in most of the session, while Rossi - having dropped outside the top ten - seemed eager to end any hopes his rivals had of a Yamaha wet weather weakness and put in a strong charge at the end of the hour to take the top spot, just 0.035secs ahead of the Australian.

Home hero Sete Gibernau used his renowned wet weather skills to take third, but 0.8secs behind Bayliss, with Honda colleague Max Biaggi a further tenth behind.

Then came the next surprise as Aprilia rookie Shane Byrne claimed an excellent fifth, having been as high as third late in the hour, to put an even bigger smile on the Brit's face - he must surely be hoping for further bad weather tomorrow.

Byrne's effort kept Alex Barros and Colin Edwards at bay, while Kenny Roberts settled for an eventual eighth, after previously putting his Suzuki well into the top five.

Yamaha's Marco Melandri took ninth, but a fraction behind him (and 2.4secs from Rossi) was WCM's Michel Fabrizio, the young Italian continuing a good session for the underdogs by outpacing the likes of Checa, Capirossi and Hayden.

Further back, Neil Hodgson took fourteenth for d'Antin Ducati, but team-mate Ruben Xaus and fellow Brit Jeremy McWilliams were left at the tail of the times after limited running.

Final qualifying takes place this afternoon.

Final free practice:

1. Rossi
2. Bayliss
3. Gibernau
4. Biaggi
5. Byrne
6. Barros
7. Edwards
8. Roberts
9. Melandri
10. Fabrizio
11. Checa
12. Capirossi
13. Hayden
14. Hodgson
15. Hopkins
16. Abe
17. Aoki
18. Nakano
19. Tamada
20. Hofmann
21. Burns
22. Kurtis Roberts
23. Xaus
24. McWilliams

 

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