Ben Spies proved once again today why the legendary Assen circuit in Holland is one of his favourites after he ended the opening day of practice on top of the timesheets.
The Texan, who claimed his solitary MotoGP victory in Assen a year ago, secured top spot with a lap of 1.34.866 to edge out heroic British rider Cal Crutchlow by just 0.006s.
Fourth fastest this morning with a 1.35.555, Spies was almost 0.8s faster in a closely contested second session that saw the top 11 split by just 0.471s.
Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Crutchlow’s ability to ride through the pain barrier came to the fore again today. The 26-year-old is still way short of 100% fitness after breaking his left ankle in a practice crash for his home race at Silverstone earlier this month.
But he ignored the pain to set a best time of 1.34.872, which slashed a massive 1.2s off his best pace set this morning.
An unexpected top three was completed by Nicky Hayden’s factory Ducati GP12. The 2006 world champion looked like pulling off a big upset in the closing stages when his best lap of 1.34.968 moved him to the top of the timesheets.
He ended third and was just 0.096s behind Crutchlow on a circuit where he scored his only MotoGP victory outside of America in 2006.
Fourth place went to the fast improving Alvaro Bautista, who was only 0.049s ahead of fellow Spaniard Jorge Lorenzo.
Lorenzo, who is looking to score a fourth successive victory for the first time in his career on Saturday, controlled the top of the leaderboard for much of the session having been quickest this morning.
Dani Pedrosa was sixth fastest and reigning world champion Casey Stoner was a surprising seventh quickest on his Repsol Honda RC213V.
The Australian was the only rider not to improve his pace from the opening practice. His best time this morning was a 1.35.181 and this afternoon he could only post a best time of 1.35.304.
Valentino Rossi ended ninth fastest having been as high as fourth at one stage. His best lap of 1.35.296 was set while chasing Pedrosa’s factory Honda RC213V but the Italian was only 0.430s off the best pace set by factory Yamaha rider Spies.
Hector Barbera, who escaped injury in an early crash, rounded out the top 10.
Quickest CRT rider was Aleix Espargaro. He logged a best time of 1.36.615 to finish 12th. British rider James Ellison was 19th after setting a best time of 1.37.973, which was 1.5s faster than his quickest pace this morning.