Dani Pedrosa sets practice pace at iconic Indianapolis

Dani Pedrosa made a fast return from the short MotoGP summer break to top the practice timesheets on the opening day of action at the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway today.

Torrential rain that battered the Indianapolis track during thunderstorms yesterday meant low grip levels for this morning’s opening practice session.

Conditions were so poor that Casey Stoner’s fastest time of 1.41.925 was over two seconds behind his 2011 lap record.

Grip levels improved greatly for the second session and Pedrosa improved from a 1.42.106 this morning to set a 1.39.783 this afternoon.

That best pace put the Spaniard, who trails compatriot Jorge Lorenzo by 23-points going into Sunday’s 28-lap race, 0.295s clear of Texan Ben Spies.

Spies, who announced on the eve of the previous race in Laguna Seca that he will quit Yamaha’s factory squad at the end of 2012, took a morale-boosting second with a 1.40.078. That put him 0.424s clear of team-mate and current world championship leader Lorenzo.

Lorenzo was only eighth fastest this morning and over 1.3s off the best pace but a lap of 1.40.502 this afternoon left him 0.719s behind Pedrosa.

Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team rider Andrea Dovizioso, who will replace Valentino Rossi in Ducati’s factory squad next season, took fourth with a best time of 1.40.560. Casey Stoner, who has won the last three races on American soil, slipped down from first this morning to fifth with a best time of 1.40.623.

That put the Australian 0.432s clear of British rider Cal Crutchlow. Crutchlow was seventh this morning, despite a heavy crash, but he was over two seconds quicker in improved conditions in the second session to move into the top six.

Nicky Hayden was third fastest this morning but dropped back to ninth on combined times to finish one place ahead of factory Ducati team-mate Valentino Rossi.

Both though were comfortably over 1.5s off the best pace set by Pedrosa on the Repsol Honda RC213V.

Paul Bird Motorsport rider James Ellison finished 20th with a best time of 1.44.127, but it was a painful return to action for Spaniard Hector Barbera.

Still walking on crutches after he was forced to miss the recent Laguna Seca clash with a broken left leg, he fell heavily at the final corner this morning.

He was taken to hospital in Indianapolis after suffering back injuries that will rule him out for the remainder of the weekend.

Toni Elias, who rode Barbera’s Pramac Ducati at Laguna, was in Indianapolis on standby and he finished 17th fastest with a best time of 1.43.095.

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt