Ducati's Casey Stoner claimed a front row start for Saturday's Dutch TT at Assen despite being forced to miss the closing minutes of the session due to a technical scare.

The Australian had banked one fast qualifying lap when he heard a loud noise from his GP10 and decided to return to the garage, where his engineers were able to later confirm that it was an 'inconsequential misfire' from the engine.

Stoner, who had been Jorge Lorenzo's nearest rival throughout free practice, also had a problem with his clutch but, providing a repeat of his Silverstone start troubles are avoided, will expect to be battling for Ducati's first podium of the season on Saturday.

"We had a small problem with the clutch - we had some air in the hydraulics and it wasn't working properly so I had to use the full pump of the clutch just to shift back through the gears," he confirmed. "A thing I think we can fix anyway.

"I got one qualifying lap in and went to start my second but the bike sounded like it backfired and so I decided to call it quits - it was better to be safe than sorry and to start the race tomorrow fresh.

"We'll have to wait and see what happens in the race but if we will be able to make some more little steps in the tomorrow's warm-up we may be not too far off."

Team-mate Nicky Hayden had a tough morning session, a technical problem with his second bike being followed immediately by a crash on a flying lap. However, in qualifying he was just half a second shy of polesetter Lorenzo and will start from fifth place.

"We can't be too disappointed with fifth place and a second row start after the session we had today," said the American. "This morning I had an engine problem in one bike and when I switched to the other one I crashed it. I wasn't hurt at all but the bike needed to be rebuilt.

"The whole team did an incredible job in just a couple of hours - even Casey's guys gave us a hand. They didn't even have time for lunch but when I came into the garage for qualifying there were two bikes there waiting for me.

"I couldn't get my feeling immediately and the start of the session was tough, but when we got the final tyre in I got my head down under that screen and gave it everything I had. I went from the 1'36s to a 1'34.9 in just one lap but we have more work to do before the race tomorrow."


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