Nicky Hayden, denied a podium by Ben Spies on the final lap of last year's Silverstone race, set a competitive pace during Friday's weather-influenced practice sessions for the 2011 British MotoGP.

As the weather worsened, the factory Ducati rider improved from fourth in the dry morning session, to third in the wet afternoon. The American was one-second from former team-mate and pace-setter Casey Stoner in the dry and 1.4sec adrift in the wet.

"This was our best Friday of the season so far," declared Hayden. "The conditions were difficult, especially this afternoon, with different surfaces and different amounts of water, but the bike worked quite well. We know it's great in the wet, but we were also competitive in the dry this morning.

"We had to be careful not to destroy the rain tyres this afternoon, because we only have four sets for the whole weekend. You really need to save two for qualifying and one for the race, so this might be the only set we have for practice.

"I hope today sets us up for a good weekend. The team expects better than what we've been doing, and so do I. There's a long way to go until Sunday, but we're off to a good start. I'm very happy with the bike and the team today."

The mixed weather made things especially complicated for Hayden's team-mate Valentino Rossi, the only MotoGP rider without prior race experience of the long, technical Silverstone circuit.

The seven time MotoGP champion missed last year's return due to a broken leg and was twelfth and ninth respectively - more than three seconds from Stoner - in the two Friday track sessions.

"Today was a bit difficult. The weather was bad for the most part, and that didn't help us. We knew we were beginning with a handicap, because compared to the others I lack the experience of last year. We're a little bit behind," admitted Rossi.

"We're currently trying to find a good balance for the bike, but considering that we still take time on the tracks that we know well, of course it's even more challenging in these conditions. We even had trouble in the wet, where normally we're immediately quite strong, so there's obviously still much work to be done.

"We know that the bike can go well because today Nicky was fast in both conditions, and that's positive. I like Silverstone a lot. It's a great track- a little old-school, beautiful and fast. We hope we can have more fun riding here tomorrow."

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