Indianapolis MotoGP: Toni Elias tops final practice

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Toni Elias continued his surprise resurgence in Indianapolis this morning as he topped the final practice session in vastly improved weather conditions.

Having claimed successive podium finishes in Brno and Misano, Elias clocked a 1.43.708 this morning to edge out Fiat Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi by just 0.072s.

Elias, who is understood to have shunned a third factory Kawasaki ZX-RR deal to return to Fausto Gresini’s Honda squad in 2009, led briefly earlier in the session before his late charge.

The session started on a damp track after yesterday’s torrential rain, but so far the dire forecasts have yet to produce a repeat of the heavy rain everybody had feared would further disrupt the weekend.

Rossi was second as he posted a best time of 1.43.780 as he goes in search of a historic 69th premier class win in tomorrow’s 28-lap race. Victory will see the Italian become the most successful rider in MotoGP history after he tied Giacomo Agostini’s record of 68 in Misano last month.

Home favourite Nicky Hayden was third quickest as he finished top Michelin rider with a best time of 1.43.826. That left him one place in front of Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa. The Spaniard, preparing to make his Bridgestone tyre debut tomorrow, clocked a best of 1.43.893 to finish just 0.185s off Elias.

It was another good morning for Bridgestone with only three Michelin riders in the top ten, with Texan Colin Edwards in a lowly 13th, unable to break into the 1.44 bracket.

Jorge Lorenzo was 14th and British rider James Toseland was way down in 16th as he posted a best time of 1.45.579.

It was another tough day for reigning world champion Casey Stoner as he slumped to 17th with a fastest time of 1.45.707. The Aussie is struggling with the damaged left wrist that he aggravated in Misano recently and he missed out when the track was nearly completely dry at the end of the session after his factory Ducati suffered a technical failure that left him stranded out on track.

Aussie Anthony West had a sudden and dramatic slide as the conditions improved. Fastest and virtually untouchable in yesterday’s appalling conditions, West went from first to last this morning. He was over three seconds off the pace in the dry and team-mate John Hopkins was only one place further up.

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt