Indy MotoGP: Dani Pedrosa tops rain-lashed practice

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Dani Pedrosa splashed his way to the fastest time in MotoGP practice as the bad weather curse struck the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway again today. A year after the inaugural Indy MotoGP clash was severely disrupted by Hurricane Ike, today’s practice was dominated by torrential rain despite earlier forecasts for a dry afternoon. The weather didn’t hinder Ducati target Pedrosa as he stormed to the best time with a 1.51.507 set with just over 20 minutes gone after Alex de Angelis, British GP winner Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo had all led in the early stages, Pedrosa kept top spot despite a late attack from Ducati rider Nicky Hayden and 2009 title favourite Valentino Rossi. Hayden had been largely anonymous in front of his home fans during the session until the dying moments. On his penultimate lap he climbed into the top six and then a lap of 1.51.662 moved him into second on his 24th and final lap. That was just 0.155s adrift of former Repsol Honda team-mate Pedrosa but 0.152s clear of Rossi’s Fiat Yamaha in third spot. The 30-year-old Italian didn’t even leave the dry sanctuary of his factory Yamaha garage until over 20 minutes of the session had elapsed. Rossi, who goes into the 12th round of the 2009 campaign with a commanding 50-point lead over team-mate Lorenzo, clocked his best time of 1.51.814 on his last lap. That relegated Lorenzo, who signed a new Yamaha contract earlier this week, down to fourth place. The Spaniard was hardly outside the top three for most of the hour and he ended with a best time of 1.51.894. Gresini Honda rider de Angelis, who doesn’t have a ride for 2010 as yet, ended up fifth after he’d led for much of the opening third of the session. His best time of 1.52.264 was good enough to keep British rider James Toseland out of the top five though. The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider though produced a morale-boosting performance after a stunning start to the session. Toseland was as high as second place after just 17 minutes and he ended in a promising sixth position with a fastest time of 1.52.888 that was just 1.381s away from Pedrosa’s best. One big surprise in the Indy downpour was the sluggish pace of Aussie Chris Vermeulen. Renowned as something of a wet weather specialist, he could only finish 12th on the factory Suzuki GSV-R. Vermeulen, who has been dropped by Suzuki for next season, was a massive 3.047s off Pedrosa. Spaniard Aleix Espargaro made a hugely impressive debut on the Pramac Ducati. Replacing Mika Kallio as the Finn continues his factory stint on absent Casey Stoner’s factory GP9, Espargaro had never ridden a MotoGP bike before, let alone tackled one in treacherous conditions. But he clocked a best time of 1.56.204 to beat regulars Gabor Talmacsi and team-mate Niccolo Canepa.

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt