If Casey Stoner and Nicky Hayden can repeat their Thursday Assen free practice performance in Saturday's race then Ducati won't just take its first podium of the season, but it's first double podium since 2007.

Stoner finished the session just 0.011sec shy of title leader Jorge Lorenzo, with Hayden half a second further back in third place.

"We've started out here with a much better base set-up than at the last few races," confirmed Stoner. "It has been a bit difficult for us since we switched back to the old forks because you have to change the way you set the bike up and change the way you ride so it has taken a little time to adapt. But I don't want to use it as an excuse because at Silverstone we had the pace but didn't get the start, whilst at Mugello nothing seemed to work.

"This weekend seems to be going well so far so I hope it stays like this. Silverstone is a faster track than this and more flowing in some ways. Assen is a little tighter and we use a lower gearing so we've had to change the set-up a fair bit. Also at Silverstone we struggled a little with wheelies because of the way we set it up to handle the bumps.

"That isn't an issue here so we're just trying to find grip and stop the bike standing up on the front end. We tried some things in the middle of the session that didn't work but other than that it was a positive first session for us."

Hayden was also pleased with his early feeling around the Dutch circuit, having made a few small alterations to the base setting he used at Silverstone.

"The bike felt pretty good out of the gate today and we made a few changes that improved it but the gap to the front is pretty big so we still have work to do. The track is very similar to Silverstone, with a lot of fast corners, so the bike isn't so different," said the American.

"Having said that we're always trying new stuff and today was no different. What we tried seemed to work so I'm thankful to Ducati for that. Hopefully we can build on it tomorrow and try to repeat this kind of position in qualifying but with a smaller gap to the front."

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