Indianapolis MotoGP: Anthony West fastest in wet first practice

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Axed factory Kawasaki rider Anthony West showed his wet weather prowess this morning to top the timesheets in a rain-hit opening free practice session in Indianapolis.

The Aussie, who has lost his ZX-RR ride for 2009, clocked a best time of 1.53.034 in the opening session, which was extended to 90 minutes to help riders familiarise themselves with the new Indy circuit.

West finished 0.117s clear of Honda rookie Alex de Angelis as he spent most of the session on top of the timesheets, with only wild card Ben Spies and reigning world champion Casey Stoner threatening to deny him.

Factory Ducati rider Stoner had to settle for third place with a best lap of 1.53.190 as he escaped injury in a late crash in the final three minutes.

Stoner high-sided as he exited the first corner but was able to walkaway, showing no signs that he had further aggravated an old left wrist injury that flared up in Misano last month.

Stoner was 0.156s behind West, yet another crash after tumbling out of the lead in Brno and Misano will do little to repair some of his dented confidence.

Andrea Dovizioso took fourth to be the highest placed Michelin rider as the Italian logged a best time of 1.53.704. He was over half-a-second slower than Stoner though.

John Hopkins cast aside some of his personal problems to clock the fifth best time as he was regularly threatening in the top six throughout.

Rain specialists Chris Vermeulen was sixth quickest with home favourite Nicky Hayden in eighth as he edged out impressive factory Suzuki wild card Spies.

Preparing for only his third MotoGP start, Spies led the session with 20 minutes remaining only to slip down the rankings to ninth as he posted a best time of 1.54.616. That was two places higher up than world title favourite Valentino Rossi, who had to settle for 11th with a fastest time of 1.54.795.

That was 1.761s slower than West, although the Italian was as high as second.

British rider James Toseland had a tough start to his quest for another top six finish as he could only manage the 17th best time. Toseland clocked a lap of 1.56.271, which was 3.237s off the fastest pace.

The rain wrecked Dani Pedrosa’s hopes of making an instant impression on Bridgestone’s tyres following his controversial split from Michelin in Misano.

The Spaniard, using Bridgestone’s rain tyres for the first time, was last in 19th place having set a best time of 1.56.851. That was just shy of four seconds slower than West.

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt