Colin Edwards was back on pace at Assen on Thursday, when the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider claimed fourth position - as the top satellite rider - in free practice.

The experienced American took to the track this afternoon using a new front-end geometry setting on his YZR-M1 and immediately felt much more confident.

Edwards concluded the hour just 0.013sec behind factory Ducati rider Nicky Hayden

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"I really needed that after a tough start to the season and thanks to my guys at Monster Yamaha Tech 3 who have been working really hard to improve my situation," said Edwards. "I really like Assen and the change they made on the back section made it feel a little bit more like the old circuit.

"My bike is quite a bit different to what it has been this season and I'm running a front geometry setting that is a lot different to what I've ever run before. I'm just trying to make the bike turn easier and feel a little more natural and it is similar to the setting that Valentino and Jorge like.

"I've got a lot more confidence than Silverstone because that was not a positive weekend at all. This track is a lot more free flowing and you have to keep a lot of momentum and that suits my style. And I can just get the bike to turn better and that's where I've been lacking. Now the bike feels great and I'm looking forward to a good weekend."

Team-mate Ben Spies also produced an encouraging display, the reigning World Superbike champion determined to build on the momentum gained from his maiden MotoGP podium at Silverstone last weekend.

The Texan was able to reel off a series of consistent laps and in the final ten minutes he stormed into the top four. A best lap of 1min 35.942sec saw Spies finish eighth but he was just 0.020sec away from the top six.

"It was a decent session though we definitely need to make a couple of changes to the bike to make it a bit better in the longer turns," said Spies. "I had quite a good set-up at Silverstone to make the bike more nimble and we started with that setting here. But it wasn't working that well so we'll go back to what we know works tomorrow and I'm confident it should be better.

"I worked a lot on the hard race tyre and I'm definitely happy with the performance and the balance of the bike. I just need to make the bike turn better when I'm on the throttle. I 'm really happy with corner entry but I'm losing a lot on the longer turns.

"The target tomorrow will be to get on the second row and I've not managed that yet. But the times are so close that with a couple of improvements to the bike I'm sure that a top six is a realistic target. Looking at my last eight laps I'm not far off at all and I'm looking forward to another positive weekend."