Ducati Marlboro Team riders Casey Stoner and Nicky Hayden were at work a day earlier than usual today as free practice for the Dutch TT got underway at Assen, with the legendary race set to take place in its traditional slot of the final Saturday in June. The Australian set out on the right foot, just 0.035 seconds off the fastest lap of the session despite being held up by traffic.Stoner, last year’s winner and the current lap record holder here, was immediately at ease with the base setting of his Desmosedici GP9 and was able to work calmly throughout the session on making gradual improvements to suit the intricacies of the fast and flowing layout. Stepping up his pace towards the end of the session, the 2007 World Champion finished third fastest but is confident of improvements tomorrow, as is 2006 champ Hayden, who was twelfth.
3rd – Casey Stoner Speaks… (1’37.877)"This afternoon went really well for us and 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."12th – Nicky Hayden Speaks… (1’38.928)"We had some different ideas to try here with the electronics and we ran them at the beginning of the session but I didn’t like them, so we went back to something similar to what we had in Barcelona, which enabled us to move up a bit. The gap to the front is closer than it’s been at other tracks but unfortunately a second around here is a lot of time and our position is not much of an improvement. There are some parts of the track that are pretty good and other sections where I’m kind of in between gears so we obviously need to look at the transmission tonight and put it all together a little better for tomorrow. We’ve got a lot of work to do but we’re used to that! I’m running the number 22 on my helmet this weekend for a close friend of our family back in America, Nick Cummins, who got hurt in a dirt-track event recently. His Dad used to sponsor me when I was younger and I just want him and his family to know that we’re with them and thinking about them, hoping things come right."Circuit RecordCasey Stoner (Ducati – 2008), 1’36.738 – 169.509 Km/hBest PoleCasey Stoner (Ducati – 2008), 1’35.520 – 171.670 Km/h