Assen MotoGP: Nicky Hayden satisfied with early speed

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Nicky Hayden quickly put the disappointment of last weekend’s British GP behind him to make an impressive start to the 80th Dutch TT at Assen this afternoon.

The Kentucky rider lost the chance to claim his first podium finish of the season at Silverstone on Sunday when a mistake let in fellow American Ben Spies for his first premier class podium.

But Hayden was able to quickly move on to clock the third quickest time in opening free practice at the iconic Assen track. 

Hayden, who scored his only MotoGP victory outside of America at Assen back in 2006, clocked a best time of 1.35.686 to finish just ahead of Colin Edwards.

The former Repsol Honda rider though was 0.506s adrift of factory Ducati team-mate Casey Stoner in second and 0.517s away from dominant world championship leader Jorge Lorenzo in first place.

Hayden, who has been fourth in four of the opening five races of the campaign, said: “Everything went relatively smooth today for Friday out of the gate. That’s one place at the last couple of races where I’ve started way behind.

"The position’s not bad, though the gap to the front feels like a lot considering that the bike was working pretty good and it’s not like I can see five or six areas where we’re just going to shave a half a second off.”

Hayden told MCN he needed to improve in the first and last sections of the Assen circuit to try and bridge the gap to Aussie Stoner and Spaniard Lorenzo.

He added: “In T2 and T3, I wouldn’t say they are under control, but very manageable. T1 and T4 is where we need to improve some stuff to put more weight onto the front. Half-a-second is a lot at this track but we can definitely find a couple of tenths.”

Hayden denied experiencing the same tyre temperature issues that plagued Stoner with conditions unusually hot for Assen. Air temperature hit 27 degrees and track temperature soared to 44 degrees and Hayden said: “I didn’t have that problem today. It’s a lot more fun to ride the bike when the tyres are in a good working mode.

"At Silverstone, those guys were high-siding, but not even pushing. I mean it’s one thing to have a big crash when you’re pushing, but when you’re three seconds off the pace and going slowly and you crash, that’s not cool.”

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt