June 23, 2006

Hopkins takes pole, injured Rossi 18th

ASSEN, Netherlands (Reuters) - American John Hopkins
grabbed the first pole position of his MotoGP career at the
Dutch Grand Prix on Friday when injured world champion
Valentino Rossi struggled to make the race grid.

Rossi will start in 18th and last position. He struggled to
control his bike after injuring his hand on Thursday in a crash
and will decide on Saturday whether to race.

Riding a Suzuki, Hopkins robbed Japan's Shinya Nakano of
his first pole in the dying seconds of qualifying, run in dry
conditions. Hopkins clocked one minute 36.411 seconds and
Nakano, on a Kawasaki, 1:36.424.

"It's been a long time coming," said Hopkins. "It's been
second, second, third - but it's a huge weight off my

American Colin Edwards (Yamaha) was third and world
championship leader, American Nicky Hayden, fourth on his

Rossi broke a bone in his right hand on Thursday and it
swelled badly overnight.

The Italian managed just four laps in free practice on
Friday and limped round the track in qualifying, before calling
it a day to rest his hand before Saturday's race.

He was nearly four seconds slower than Hopkins.

"My wrist really hurts," Rossi told reporters. "It's hard
riding with a swollen hand, there is not much strength in it.

"I'm taking pain-killers .. but I had to stop because of
the pain."

Rossi won last weekend's Catalan Grand Prix which featured
a pile-up on the first corner. Ducati's Loris Capirossi hurt
his chest in that crash and was obviously still suffering
during qualifying on Friday.

The on-board camera showed the Italian holding his fist to
his chest and breathing deeply as he went round the Assen
circuit. Capirossi, second in the standings, qualified 15th.

Spain's Jorge Lorenzo qualified fastest for the 250cc race
on Saturday, lapping his Aprilia in 1:40.007.

Lorenzo is second in the standings behind Italian Andrea
Dovizioso (Honda) who is also on the front row in third, behind
San Marino's Alex de Angelis on an Aprilia.

In the 125cc, Mika Kallio of Finland, second in the
standings on a KTM, took pole. World championship leader Alvaro
Bautista of Spain was second on an Aprilia and Lukas Pasek of
the Czech Republic (Derbi) third.