Michael Laverty was pleased following the opening day of MotoGP action at Assen, which saw the PBM rider enjoy a significant upgrade for the first time this season.

The Ulsterman and team-mate Broc Parkes are using a new exhaust this weekend that provides a 10bhp advantage in midrange.

Laverty concluded Thursday practice 21st out of the 23 riders, but from the first laps this morning felt confident with the handling of his PBM.

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"It was good right from the first laps this morning," said Laverty. "I had hoped that the changes that we've made from the bike compared to last year would have made a difference and from the first lap I felt much more comfortable and then gradually got faster and faster. This afternoon I went straight into the '36s and did my best time on the hard rear, I'm nearly two seconds faster than I went last year and for sure I would have been into the '35s with the softer rear.

"We've made a big improvement chassis wise and compared to Barcelona the new exhaust gives us a boost in acceleration. I've been really impressed with that step up because we always had to wait for the power in third gear but now we've got some extra grunt and you can really feel it on track."

The new exhaust has changed the mid-range power of the bike but has had little effect on the engine braking. Laverty changed his settings after following Jorge Lorenzo at the end of the morning session as he tried to incorporate some of the Spaniard's smooth riding style into his own.

"I followed Jorge this morning and he doesn't brake hard anywhere here but instead he just flows and maintains his momentum around here. I thought that I needed to ride a bit like that and I changed my engine braking to be the same as Broc's, I usually run a lot more engine braking that him, and rather than riding it and braking hard I used less brake and then threw it into the corner and let the bike steer it around the corner.

"The chassis is taking that it's been a big improvement for me around this kind of track where one corner leads into another. At this kind of track if you brake hard and go a bit deeper you make a mistake so you've got to be patient and look to carry that corner speed to keep the momentum up."

With the Open Hondas of Hiroshi Aoyama, Nicky Hayden and Karel Abraham within half a second, Laverty feels that this could be a race that he can compete with them for the first time this season.:

"This is the closest that we've been to the customer Hondas and they're within earshot this weekend. I hope that we can race with them on Saturday but it depends on how much of a step they make tomorrow. I always said that at top end we were close to the Honda but that we lost out in acceleration so hopefully that's closer now. The chassis is working well around here so I think that it's a possibility to race them. I caught Nicky in FP1 and was surprised that I was faster than him in that session and for most of the afternoon before he and Abraham made a step at the end."