Coming to Assen in the form of his life, Andrea Dovizioso was "really happy" to find the Ducati GP17 in competitive trim around the 2.8-mile Dutch track as he placed fourth overall at the end of Friday.

Other than seeing his first bike expire in the opening minutes of FP1 - oil dropped by Dovizioso's machine led to falls for Jonas Folger and Jorge Lorenzo, as well as a red flag - the Italian enjoyed a fairly smooth day, placing inside the top four in both the morning and afternoon.

Only Maverick Vi?ales' late FP2 effort, which took him three tenths of a second clear of the chasing pack, was cause for concern. Even then, Dovizioso felt "we are not too far," a comment at odds with struggling team-mate Lorenzo.

"So today we start with a good speed," said Dovizioso. "I'm happy about that. It's always a difficult track with difficult conditions here at Assen and it was important to confirm a good speed like the last two races. I was able to make a good lap time and finished fourth.

"But Maverick confirmed a really strong situation with a really fast lap time. Also Marc has a really good pace on used tyres. But we are not too far. For sure we have to gain some tenths. I believe we are able to improve our set-up.

"The pace was good, but in some points we weren't perfect. I think we have a margin to improve in the dry. I don't know if tomorrow we have a chance to ride in the dry."

Asked whether he was surprised by his pace on Friday, Dovizioso continued: "[I'm] Not surprised. Also last year in free practice three I was first. We were competitive last year but we didn't make a race in the dry. The race always shows the reality.

"I'm not surprised but you never know. Every time you go to a different track you never know. The tyre change, without winglets, you always have a question mark. So I'm happy about that."

Pinpointing areas to work on when in his technical debrief this evening, Dovizioso believes he can be stronger under heavy braking for turns one and 16, as well as turning through Assen's myriad of long, fluid corners.

"Well, on the braking I wasn't so strong," he said. "On the exit of the corner where I have to exit with the throttle, the long corner, I couldn't turn the bike as I wanted. I think we can improve in that area."

Also, the technical issue he suffered in FP1, he insisted, was no big issue. "[It was] Nothing bad. Nothing strange. Just we had a small problem. Fortunately we didn't damage the engine and that engine we used in the afternoon. It's always dangerous when this happens but it's racing. Unfortunately sometimes it can happen."

By Neil Morrison

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