Bikes: Heavy rain dampens ...

 first day at Indianapolis

Rizla Suzuki MotoGP’s three rider attack at this weekend’s inaugural Indianapolis Grand Prix in America was hampered yesterday in its preparations for Sunday’s race by persistent rain at new 4,216m circuit.

Chris Vermeulen, Loris Capirossi and wildcard rider Ben Spies were able to complete plenty of valuable wet-weather testing, which looks like it could be very important as heavy rain and storms – some of which could be the remnants of Hurricane Ike that is battering America at the moment – will probably be a continuing factor over the whole weekend.

Vermeulen was sixth quickest overall today as he set a best lap-time of 1’53.771 from his 46 laps. He was pleased with his first outing on the Indy circuit and is certainly hoping that the weather improves for the weekend so he can get to grips with the new track. Capirossi (P18, 1’56.345, 47 laps) was unable to find a setting he was happy with during both of today’s sessions, but the experienced Italian is convinced his fortunes will change tomorrow.

Ben Spies impressed in his third MotoGP event by recording a creditable ninth position with a best time of 1’54.297 from his 33 laps. The recently crowned 2008 AMA Superbike Champion used his circuit knowledge – gathered from a two-day tyre test he attended in July – to good use and was regularly up with the front runners in the atrocious conditions. Today’s fastest time was set by Anthony West on his factory Kawasaki.

The three Rizla Suzuki racers will have one more practice session tomorrow morning, followed by an hour of qualifying in the afternoon. Sunday’s 28-lap race is round 14 of the season and the action gets underway at 15.00hrs local time (19.00hrs GMT).

Chris Vermeulen:

“This is the first time at Indianapolis and it’s great to have bikes at a place with such a racing history, it’s just a shame the weather didn’t turn it on today and we ended up with two very wet sessions. The circuit have done a good job here and they have built a great track, although some of the new surface is different to the old one and it holds water in very different ways, so in the wet it was difficult to get the bike working with any rhythm. We did try a lot of things and the whole team did a good job in the awful conditions. Bridgestone has brought some really good wet tyres here and they worked very well. Hopefully we can improve further tomorrow on what we have done today!”

Loris Capirossi:

“I think this was a bit of a negative day for me today, not just my position but the fact that I never found a good setting. We tried to change things throughout the day, but the biggest problem was how bad the conditions were and we just didn’t seem to be able to make any improvements. It is easy to say this about the track, but it is the same for everybody and I just struggled out there today. Today has been the worst day of the season, but I am not going to let that bother me because we have to improve tomorrow and I know that we will!”

Ben Spies:

“It was good today and we’re quite pleased with how it went. We finished both sessions early because it was so wet we weren’t going to make any difference. They were both good sessions for us though and although the track was a bit awkward in places - because the water was laying on the surface - and it made it difficult in parts. I know I still had a bit in reserve and if the conditions are the same tomorrow I am sure I can go a good bit quicker!”

Paul Denning – Team Manager:

“Chris has adapted to the very bad conditions today as well as we have come to expect, and Ben has also done a great job and looked very competitive. Unfortunately for Loris we weren’t able to resolve a problem that has affected him all day, and that has been frustrating, because clearly he is capable of a lot more. We just need to hope that the weather improves because it’s hard enough riding a MotoGP bike when it’s wet but when it’s really wet – like at the end of this afternoon’s session when the track started to flood – it will be almost impossible for the guys to race”

“The Speedway has done a great job and it deserves better than the conditions we have had today. The whole organisation has been really positive in welcoming the MotoGP family and let’s hope it gets a break with the weather.”

Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix Free Practice Classification:

1. Anthony West (Kawasaki) 1’53.034: 2. Alex de Angelis (Honda) +0.117: 3. Casey Stoner (Ducati) +0.156: 4. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) +0.670: 5. John Hopkins (Kawasaki) +0.681: 6 CHRIS VERMEULEN (RIZLA SUZUKI MOTOGP) +0.737: 9. BEN SPIES (RIZLA SUZUKI MOTOGP) +1.263: 18. LORIS CAPIROSSI (RIZLA SUZUKI MOTOGP) +3.311: