Pedrosa from Hayden at wet Indianapolis.

 One year after the tail end of a hurricane forced the inaugural Indianapolis MotoGP race to be abandoned eight laps early, the 2009 edition also got off to a very wet start. 

    Rain began falling just before the start of Friday practice and had soon soaked the circuit, prompting 2008 Indy winner and 2009 title leader Valentino Rossi to stay in the pits while Alex de Angelis, Andrea Dovizioso, Jorge Lorenzo and James Toseland set the pace on full wets.

    If Rossi had been expecting the weather to improve he, like the fans, was to be left disappointed. With the rain still teeming down, the Italian finally became the 17th and final rider out on track shortly after the 20 minute mark of the hour, just as an unusually aggressive Dani Pedrosa took over at the top.

    With surface water and spray continuing to grow, Pedrosa's 1min 51.507sec - set on his sixth lap - stood a safe 0.7sec clear of next best de Angelis right until the final moments, when conditions improved slightly.

    At that point, the Repsol Honda rider's time suddenly came under attack from both home hero Nicky Hayden and Rossi. 

    Hayden, second in last year's race for Repsol Honda, moved purposefully up the order to put his factory Ducati just 0.155sec slower than former team-mate Pedrosa, with Rossi a further 0.152sec behind for Fiat Yamaha.

    Rossi's team-mate and nearest title rival Lorenzo, wearing a special helmet design, marked his first track session since agreeing a new Yamaha contract by circulating 0.387sec from the top for fourth at a circuit where he took his first ever wet weather podium one year ago.

    Like Pedrosa, de Angelis (Honda Gresini) and Toseland (Tech 3) set their best lap time early in the hour and finished 0.757sec and 1.381sec from the Spaniard in fifth and sixth after a morale boosting start to the weekend.

    Just days after his new contract was announced, Loris Capirossi led the Suzuki challenge in seventh, while eighth for Colin Edwards left the Texan in the unusual position of being behind team-mate Toseland and the slowest Yamaha.

    Donington winner Andrea Dovizioso was ninth on the second factory Honda, while Marco Melandri rounded out the top ten for Hayate.

    Mika Kallio began his second weekend as a factory Ducati rider with a cautious eleventh, 2.460sec from Pedrosa, while Chris Vermeulen - now confirmed as leaving Suzuki at the end of the season - was twelfth in conditions he usually excels in.

    The injured Randy de Puniet claimed 13th for LCR Honda, with Brno podium finisher Toni Elias was just 14th for Gresini Honda.

    20-year-old Aleix Espargaro, making his MotoGP debut this weekend in place of Kallio at Pramac Ducati, turned heads by finishing his first hour on a Desmosedici in a commendable 15th place - ahead of both Gabor Talmacsi (Scot Honda) and regular Pramac rider Niccolo Canepa.

    While the rest of the MotoGP field took to the wet Indianapolis track for Friday practice, world champion and 2009 title leader Valentino Rossi chose to save his engine for the first 20 minutes of the session.

    New rules introduced last time at Brno limit each rider to a maximum of five engine changes during the final seven rounds, with a 10 point penalty should more be needed.

    As such, and with the weather expected to improve as the weekend goes on, Rossi felt he had little to gain by putting unnecessary mileage on his Fiat Yamaha.

    The Italian rode for 16 laps, the least of any rider except the injured Randy de Puniet, but still got within 0.152sec of fastest man Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) on his last lap - and was just 0.003sec slower than Nicky Hayden (Ducati Marlboro).

    “I sat out the first 20 minutes in order to save the engine mileage and by the time I went out it was very wet,” said Rossi, winner of last year's storm-shortened Indy event. “Unfortunately the track wasn't draining so well where there is new asphalt and in some corners it was quite dangerous with standing water and a risk of aquaplaning. 

    “This weather was unlucky but it wasn't such a bad session and our pace and setting in the wet was quite good,” he said of his third position. “We were able to improve the balance of the bike and if the conditions are like this again then we have some ideas to improve further. Luckily however it looks like the weather will be much better and so tomorrow we will start again from zero in the dry!”

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