Sete Gibernau, testing once again for Ducati at Mugello again this week, may be the most likely candidate to replace Marco Melandri - should the struggling Italian relinquish his factory MotoGP seat - but test rider Niccolo Canepa underlined that he shouldn't be forgotten by leading both days of the Indianapolis MotoGP test.

Seven riders, representing all five MotoGP manufacturers, were present at Indianapolis this week to conduct a two day tyre test ahead of the inaugural Red Bull Indianapolis GP on September 12-14.

Permanent MotoGP riders were not allowed to attend, so Canepa took to the track alongside Ben Spies (Suzuki), Olivier Jacque (Kawasaki), Erwan Nigon (Honda), William Costes (Yamaha), Wataru Yoshikawa (Yamaha) and, briefly, Nobuatsu Aoki (Suzuki).

Of the seven, only Spies has ridden in a 2008 MotoGP - when he replaced the injured Loris Capirossi at Donington Park. Spies, the reigning double AMA Superbike champion, will also make two further MotoGP appearances this season - at Laguna Seca and Indianapolis itself - and Canepa admitted he was happy to have outpaced the highly-rated American during the opening day.

But Spies, who qualified eighth (wet) and finished 14th (dry) at Donington Park, had been just 0.05secs slower than the Italian - then led much of the second day of testing. Spies was still on top of the timesheets when he packed up, but Canepa later edged 0.0843secs under the Texan's best.

The relative competiveness of the Ducati Desmosedici and Suzuki GSV-R is open for debate - Casey Stoner has won three races with the Ducati, but the other three riders have struggled to break the top ten, while Suzuki's best finish this year is fifth - but Canepa certainly didn't do his growing reputation any harm by leading both days at Indianapolis.

"This morning we had some problems with the bike, so we went slower and did not do a lot of setup," Canepa said. "This evening I tried to do a long run on a full tank of fuel. I did a very good lap time on the first lap with full fuel. I'm really happy like yesterday, but a little tired now. I want to come back soon because I like the track and the whole USA."

Few would be surprised if Spies and Canepa find themselves back on track together in the future and both will be competing in world championship events on July 20. Canepa, the reigning FIM Superstock champion, will switch disciplines and ride a third factory Ducati in the Brno round of the World Superbike championship, while Spies will be back in MotoGP action in front of his home fans at Laguna Seca.

"The first race that I was supposed to run was in the States [at Laguna Seca], and that would have been really cool," said Ben. "We ended up going to Donington and having our first race there, and I think it was better to do that because now I've been on the track with those guys.

"I've done the whole weekend, I've done the start, I've done everything, and I won't be nervous at Laguna. Even if Laguna would, for sure, be a better result than in Donington, the nerves would be there, and we got that out of the way at Donington. Now I can go to Laguna and then Indy, a track I know now, and go for some good results and try to put the bike up front.

"I think it was better to do that, and for the two races that are in the States, I'm happy about it. We've got a lot of fans. Most of them will be Americans, and they'll be rooting for John [Hopkins], Nicky [Hayden], me and Colin [Edwards], and Laguna is a track that I know well, so I'm looking forward to it.

"My fellow AMA riders will be at Laguna, and they'll have my back, so it'll be fun. I'm looking forward to it," he added.

Half a second behind Bridgestone riders Canepa and Spies, Nigon put his Michelin-shod Honda third - with Jacque, Costes and Yoshikawa covered by half a second in fourth, fifth and sixth. Aoki didn't ride on the final day.

Top speeds were lower on Wednesday due to a head wind along the main straight. Canepa's Desmosedici reached 181.026 mph on day two, but Jacque's Kawasaki had clocked 186.002 mph on day one.

"The wind was very fast today, and yesterday there was no wind," confirmed Costes. "It was right in the face of us in the pit-lane straight. The beginning of the afternoon was more difficult.

"I think this was a good idea to do the test because we were able to come back with a lot of information," he added.

Although the MotoGP test ended on Wednesday, motorcycles will continue to test on the 16-turn IMS road course on Thursday when the young riders of the Red Bull AMA U.S. Rookies Cup practice from 10am to 3:45pm.


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