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.

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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.

Fortunately, the weather is expected to improve as the weekend goes on.

Friday practice:

1. Pedrosa
2. Hayden
3. Rossi
4. Lorenzo
5. de Angelis
6. Toseland
7. Capirossi
8. Edwards
9. Dovizioso
10. Melandri
11. Kallio
12. Vermeulen
13. de Puniet
14. Elias
15. Espargaro
16. Talmacsi
17. Canepa