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de Angelis sixth on Friday.

Alex de Angelis called up his successful 2008 Mugello base setting to make a flying start to the 2009 Italian Grand Prix weekend.

The San Carlo Honda Gresini rider, who rode his best race of last year en route to fourth position, set the sixth fastest time in Friday practice. The San Marinese was the second best RCV rider and only 0.09sec behind Repsol's Dani Pedrosa, in fourth.

“Today was a big improvement to be honest,” said Alex, who has struggled at the last few rounds to find rear traction out of slow corners. “We've been fighting all season with the same problem, which is rear traction, and here you have fast, flowing corners that don't put the same demands on the bike as a stop-and-go track like Le Mans.

“Also our engine is really strong and that is a vital ingredient here at Mugello,” he explained. “We had a good base setting for the bike here from last year and it has worked well today but we still have lots of work to do tomorrow. Hopefully it will stay dry and give us the chance to fight for a good position on the grid although to be honest I won't be too worried if it rains either.”

Team-mate Toni Elias, who was in Rome on Wednesday night to watch hometown football club Barcelona win the Champions League final, has almost fully recovered from the effects of arm pump surgery that hindered his progress at Le Mans two weeks ago.

The Spaniard was able to set top ten pace throughout the session before being held up by traffic on his final run and dropping to twelfth.

“The arm is much better this week and up until the final quarter of an hour things were going well – better than in previous weeks,” he said. “On my final run I ran into a lot traffic and just at the moment when I would have really improved my times I was unable to get a single clean lap in. I'm pretty sure I could have done a low 1'51 or high 1'50 [good enough for sixth] so I'm annoyed about that. Anyway, I'm happy with the setting we have found and pleased with the way we've started this grand prix so I am looking forward to seeing what tomorrow brings.”

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