Assen MotoGP: Valentino Rossi happy in second

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Valentino Rossi declared himself happy to be second quickest at the end of opening MotoGP practice in Assen today, the Italian bumped off top spot by a late attack from Randy de Puniet.

Rossi looked to have started his quest for a 100th Grand Prix victory in perfect fashion this afternoon when he topped the timesheets with 12 minutes of a session run in sunny but windy conditions at the historic Assen circuit.

But his best lap of 1.37.847 was marginally bettered by de Puniet - the Frenchman snatching the fastest time by just 0.005s in the final 90 seconds.

Rossi though was still satisfied having been the quickest of the title contenders today.

Aussie Casey Stoner was one place and 0.030s slower in third place, while Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo was fourth quickest, less than two-tenths off Rossi’s pace.

The Italian said: “I’m happy about today’s practice because I was fast from the start and I could ride the bike how I want.

"This is very important because it means that the modifications we made in Barcelona are working here too, even though this is a different type of track.

"Now we have one or two small things to fix in order to improve our overall performance and lap time further.

"Anyway, we’re there, second by just a tiny bit and feeling good. It seems there is a doubt for the weather on Saturday which is a pity; of course I hope it’s dry but if it’s going to be a wet race then I hope we have the chance for one or two wet laps before the race in warm-up otherwise it will be quite hard.”

Stoner was happy with his form, revealing that he clocked his best time on Ducati’s carbon fibre swingarm GP9.

The 23-year-old is still running one of his bikes with an aluminium swingarm and he said: “We were able to go a lot faster on that bike. We got the front end of the bike working a little better with the carbon swingarm but not because of the swingarm but because of the changes we made.

"The aluminium swingarm was working well too. We’re going to stick with one and one for the time being. We’ve started off where we left off in Catalunya, which is a great sign.

"Generally with this bike we’ve had to make a lot of changes from track to track and we usually have to spend the first session working really hard to adapt the set-up, but on this occasion it feels good out of the box.

"We tried a couple of things during the session but once we got onto the harder front tyre it all clicked into place and we could have gone a lot faster but I got held up on a couple of laps and then on my last lap I pushed the front a bit too hard and ran wide.

"We still have some improvements to make but generally speaking it is very positive to start out on the pace - especially at such a windy circuit, because usually we struggle in the wind."

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt