Gordon Hatch, MotoGP Correspondent
Ben Spies leads the way on day one at historic Dutch circuit
Ben Spies surged to the top of the timing sheets during today’s second free practice session for the Iveco TT at Assen, the circuit where the Yamaha Factory Racing rider notched up his first ever win in MotoGP and the American gave the rest of his rivals an early taste of his pace during both outings on the Dutch circuit.
Today was a good day, both this morning and this afternoon.
The American ended his first hour of practice this morning in fourth and later that afternoon under dry conditions he jumped to the top of the times setting a lap time of 1m 34.866s that could not be matched by his rivals with Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) again showing steely determination to set the second fastest time of 1m 34.872s despite nursing a broken ankle sustained at his home GP in Silverstone under two weeks ago. Fellow American rider Nicky Hayden rounded off the top 3 for the Ducati Team with a best lap of 1m 34.968s.
San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista was next in 4th position on a best lap of 1m 35.008s ahead of Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo who was fastest this morning was the first rider outside the 1m 34s bracket with a time of 1m 35.057s this afternoon and his compatriot Dani Pedrosa following in 6th on a time of 1m 35.080s. Andrea Dovizioso was next along on his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 machine setting a best lap of 1m 35.257s with Ducati Racing’s Valentino Rossi sitting in 8th recording a best lap of 1m 35.296s.
Finishing his first day in 9th despite a fall was Pramac Racing man Hector Barbera whose time of 1m 35.298s was better than that of Casey Stoner on his Repsol Honda RC213V with a lap time of 1m 35.304s with the Australian appearing to have problems with his machine and making an unusual number of return journeys to the pits with Stefan Bradl ending the day in 11th for his LCR Honda team with a best lap time of 1m 35.337s.
The best of the CRT riders on day one was Aleix Espargaro for the Power Electronics Aspar team on a best lap of 1m 36.615s ahead of his teammate Randy de Puniet (1m 36.871s). San Carlo Honda Gresini CRT rider Michele Pirro ended day one in 14th place on a best time of 1m 37.057s while Avintia Blusens rider Yonny Hernandez finished in 15th on a best time of 1m 37.572s. Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing) returned to action this week after sitting out the British GP due to breaking a number of fingers in a testing crash at Aragon. The Czech rider ended day one with a best lap of 1m 37.628s.
Speed Master’s Mattia Pasini finished day one with the 17th fastest time of 1m 37.657s with NGM Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards in 18th on a best time of 1m 37.669s ahead of the Paul Bird Motorsport machine of James Ellison who set a best time of 1m 37.973s with Ivan Silva in 20th for the Avintia Blusens team on a time of 1m 38.279s and Danilo Petrucci in 21st for the Came IodaRacing team with a best lap of 1m 38.373s.
Spies was happy to be back on the pace following a tough start to this season saying, “Today was a good day, both this morning and this afternoon. In the second session we did almost race distance on the tyres in case it rains tomorrow to be ready for Saturday. We had quick times and then tried the soft tire at the end of the session and were able to put down some quick laps with over race distance on the front tire. The bike feels good so we’re going to continue on this path and try to make the bike even better for tomorrow and Saturday.”
Crutchlow was content with his second place finish today especially with his injured ankle. He said, “I am happy to be second quickest considering my physical condition is certainly still not the best after the crash at Silverstone. This morning was a bit of a shock to be honest because although I have been able to do a bit of cycling at home on the Isle of Man as part of the recovery, it definitely wasn't easy. There was quite a bit of pain with the ankle this morning and it took me longer than normal to get into a rhythm. But overall I am really pleased to be second because I am still quite sore.
I am sure it is going to get better the more time I spend on the bike but I had arm pump this morning too because I was compensating for the ankle. But this afternoon it wasn't an issue at all. I tried the hard and soft rear tyres and felt good on both so we have done a good job as always. The target for this weekend was to try and be inside the top six throughout and I've done that today. My ideal time was actually fastest so that is a really big positive and gives me a good boost to take into tomorrow,” Crutchlow added.
Hayden was very happy with how his first day at the iconic Assen circuit. He said, "I really like Assen and today the weather was perfect. The team worked well and we pulled out a couple of good ideas. The bike was good ride and it all went smoothly. This morning we used the harder tire and on the last exit I improved my time. In the afternoon we did not make big changes because the bike is very good right now but tomorrow we will try to improve and will continue to work to make a step forward with the race distance."