Cal Crutchlow made a gutsy return to MotoGP action at Assen on Thursday, when the MotoGP rookie finished a disrupted opening day of the Dutch TT with the sixth fastest time.

Sixth and the top satellite (bike) rider would classify as a strong start in itself, but the Englishman was also riding just 12 days after breaking his left collarbone in qualifying for his home round at Silverstone.

Rain battered the Assen circuit this morning, which reduced the stress on his shoulder, although the former World Supersport champion admitted the need to avoid another accident was always at the back of his mind.

"I was happy enough this morning but the rain has made it easier for me. I think it would be really difficult in the dry, particularly changing direction in the fast chicanes," confessed the Monster Yamaha tech 3 rider. "The last chicane is quite difficult because you go from right to left and that is even worse on the shoulder.

"The shoulder just feels quite sore and I'm pretty cautious with it. I'm definitely aware of it and when I start to go fast I think I should slow down a bit. In the wet conditions it doesn't hurt that much, but I'm really wary because the last thing I need is another crash on it.

"I had a few rear grip issues with the bike but there is no reason why we can't improve that. The track felt really slippery this morning but we need to find some rear grip on corner entry."

Crutchlow lapped 1.350sec behind Honda's Marco Simoncelli, but just 0.391sec from the fastest M1 of reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo (fifth).

The afternoon session was then cancelled due to oil left on the track in the Moto2 session.

"To be honest I hope it rains all weekend because it will make it easier on me," said Cal. "If it's a dry race then it will be a long 26-laps on Saturday with a plate and a load of screws in my collarbone, but I will do my best as always."

Team-mate Colin Edwards, who took a podium finish in the wet at Silverstone - just a week after breaking his collarbone - was 0.582sec slower than Crutchlow in eighth.

"I felt pretty good this morning after we came back to a setting that was similar to what used to get on the podium at Silverstone a couple of weeks ago," said the Texan. "The first 15 minutes this morning we made some changes to the rain set-up we thought would make the bike better than what I ran in the race at Silverstone but it wasn't the step forward we expected.

"We were trying to get some more rear grip but it made the bike too nervous and too twitchy and I wasn't as comfortable and confident as I felt in Silverstone. That cost me a bit of track time but once we reverted back to the setting that was close to what I used in Silverstone, I could push at my normal level.

"Physically I feel great. The collarbone feels fantastic and the muscle damage around the ribs I damaged in the Catalunya crash is a lot less painful. I sneezed in bed last night and didn't cry for the first time in about three weeks, so that's a bonus."

As a result of today's disruption, an extra 45 minutes will be added to Friday morning's practice session.


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