MotoGP rookie Ben Spies powered his Monster Yamaha to a grand prix qualifying best at Assen on Friday.
Brimming with confidence after recording his first MotoGP podium at Silverstone last weekend, Spies set himself up perfectly for another rostrum challenge after qualifying in fourth place for Saturday's race.
Aided by improved turning performance with his YZR-M1 machine after key front-end changes, Spies posted a best time just 0.123sec away from Casey Stoner in third position and 0.4sec from pole sitter Jorge Lorenzo of Fiat Yamaha.
"It's my best qualifying session and I'm really happy,” said Spies. “I wanted to get on the second row but I was a little bit worried that I would be at the back of it and for the first corner here I wanted to be in a better position. I wasn't sure how much I would get out of the soft tyre, but as soon as we bolted it on I was faster.
“We've got good pace so we'll look at the weather conditions and comments but I think both tyres will work. I've got good pace on the hard and soft tyre so we just need to see what Bridgestone's opinion is. The soft tyre will be quicker in the beginning so we'll see but it will be a tough call. Judging by where I qualified another podium is a realistic target.
“Obviously Jorge is a way ahead of me at the front but the fight between third to sixth is pretty close. I'm in that fight and that could land me on the podium. But it could easily be a dogfight and I could end up sixth or seventh. Going into the race though I'm closer than I was with the lap times than Silverstone, so anything is possible,” added Spies, who won a WSBK race at Assen last season.
Texan team-mate Colin Edwards will start from ninth on the grid as he experimented with front-end geometry.
“We had both bikes set-up quite a bit differently with the front-end geometry and one I didn't like that much. But the other bike felt better and I was able to push harder. It's even closer to the front-end geometry that Jorge uses than I tried yesterday and it makes it feel like I'm not chasing the front and I can put the front tyre right where I want it,” he said.
“The set-up is still not perfect and I think the front fork spring is a little bit too hard but we'll play with that tonight. To be back down in ninth shows how tough it is in MotoGP this year because I was really riding hard and the bike felt good. I certainly feel like we're in better shape than we have been at some other races so I need to get a good start.
“I've pretty much decided to go with the softer tyre. I did a mid-35 on the 20th lap of the soft tyre so I'm going to go with that. The harder tyre doesn't have the side grip that I want to make the lap time,” he revealed.