After a season of almost constant frustration, and the loss of his Kawasaki seat for 2009, few would begrudge Anthony West for exploiting his wet weather prowess to secure a perfect sweep of Friday practice at the inaugural Indianapolis GP.
The 27-year-old used his experience of inconsistent track surfaces in Australia to tame the three very different types of asphalt that coat the new road course, and spent the majority of morning practice at the top of the standings. West eventually finished the one hour and a half long stint 0.117secs clear of second-placed Alex de Angelis, having set what proved to be the fastest time of the day.
West's pace then continued throughout the hour-long afternoon session, as he impressively led the field while conditions on track worsened. Although none of the MotoGP competitors improved their times, West recorded a lap 0.758secs faster than closest rival and another fellow Australian, Chris Vermeulen.
"This is a great way to start the weekend, especially after the results we've had recently," smiled Ant. "There's a lot of water out on the circuit, and it's a bit strange as there are quite a few changes of surface, but I've found my way around here quite easily, so I'm feeling happy.
"In some ways this track is a bit like those I used to ride on back home in Australia, because many of the circuits there have inconsistent surfaces, and I've found it relatively easy to adapt my riding style to suit the changes throughout a lap here.
"The bike is working well, and although we've had a few scary moments, I'm feeling pretty confident for tomorrow. It's promising that we can come to a new track, learn the lines quickly, and be able to put in good lap times quite comfortably," he concluded.
"Anthony's performance today was very strong. We have found a good set-up for the Ninja ZX-RR to suit this circuit and it's the first time he has felt really comfortable aboard the bike," revealed West's crew chief Juan Martinez, tipped to re-join Sete Gibernau next season, should the Spaniard secure a fifth Ducati. "To finish the day in first place is a big motivation for the team, and I hope we can continue to build on this tomorrow, especially as the forecast is for more rain."
John Hopkins also made a strong start to his home grand prix, finishing the day fifth in the overall standings.
"Today was just hit and miss with the weather. We definitely missed with how hard it rained this afternoon. There was just a lot of standing water, and it was just real, real difficult," said John. "This morning really wasn't so bad. The water had subsided quite a bit so we were able to get some decent laps times in the morning, and lap times were much, much quicker this morning. But this afternoon we had a lot of standing water, and standing water equals a lot of aquaplaning and stuff.
"To be honest, there is a lot more setup to do when you have drier conditions. In the wet conditions, the main thing you have to do is work on is traction control. Traction control is a must because you want to be able to hit the corner and hold it wide open coming out of the corners and the bike does the work for you. It controls the slip coming out the corners. In terms of suspension and everything, it is not as crucial as it is in the dry, but as far as the tyres go we worked really, really hard, we tried three or four different compounds this afternoon, so we did a lot of tyre testing this afternoon.
"You have to change up your riding style about three different times over a lap. The first part of the track you are going into complete standing water, really, really slick, then it goes to really grippy conditions when you get to the old surface, and then it goes back to slick, and then the entire last section of the track is just amazing grip, it is almost as if you are driving in the dry.
"[West] did a really good job, and I know we can catch right up and be right up there with him," Hopper declared.